Glasgow to buy neglected homes for social housing in bid to tackle absent landlords

By Drew Sandelands

More neglected homes in Glasgow are set to be redeveloped then used for social housing after plans for compulsory purchases were approved.

Housing chiefs can now start the process required to buy two long-term vacant properties on the city’s South Side.

One of the homes, on Clifford Street, Cessnock, has been empty for 14 years and needs significant repairs.

The other flat on Westmoreland Street, Govanhill, is owned by a private landlord, who was served a closing order in 2016 as the property failed to “meet a tolerable standard”.

These planned compulsory purchases are part of Glasgow City Council’s efforts to crack down on empty properties. Since 2019, more than 40 compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) have been pursued by council officers.

An officer said CPOs are a “last resort” but, when landlords refuse to address problems, the council “will continue to take action”.

He told the city’s contracts and property committee, which approved progressing with the purchases, if the council “was awash with money we would probably promote more and more CPOs”.

“We will continue to push forward with CPOs where there is strategic importance attached to it. Govanhill is a key area for us, like Ibrox and Cessnock, where we are trying to regenerate the areas.”

Glasgow approved an empty homes strategy in December 2019. At that time, there were 2,687 homes listed as being empty for six months or more.

Councils can use council tax records to identify vacant properties. They can also charge a 100% council tax surcharge to owners whose properties aren’t being marketed for rent and sale and have been empty for over 12 months.

Cllr Ruairi Kelly, SNP, said: “Obviously, we need to make use of empty homes to provide safe, secure homes to live in.

“One of the major issues is homes falling into disrepair and that starts to affect other homes in the close.”

Once the council has taken over properties, it enters an agreement with a local housing association, which takes over the maintenance.

The properties at Flat G/02, 26 Clifford Street and 2/1 72 Westmoreland Street would be taken over by Govan and Govanhill housing associations respectively.

Cllr Kelly said the associations can then refurbish the flats and offer a home to a family or individual. “Over the last number of years you can see there has been a concerted effort,” he added. “It’s something we have really pushed.

“I think the more liberal use of CPO powers has been really welcome.

“There is obviously a continued issue with either derelict houses that have been left vacant or landlord-owned and let out but aren’t kept up to a high enough standard that then impacts all the surrounding properties.

“To see this sort of action taken, that would bring them back into public ownership or passed on to registered social landlords to run, is great. The more that we can do this the better for our communities.”

The Cessnock and Govanhill flats have been identified as “causing environmental blight in the local area, and/or hindering repair and maintenance of the blocks”, a council report stated.

Family members of the owner of the Clifford Street property have been traced but “do not wish to pursue their interest in the property” while the Westmoreland Street home has been empty since November 2018 following the closing order.

The council secured that flat to “prevent illegal occupation” and Govanhill Housing Association offered to purchase on a voluntary basis but the owner refused to sell.

The council officer said compulsory purchases were “the only realistic option” and he hoped they could be completed within six to nine months.

Cllr Kelly added: “I would look at it as owning a home is a privilege but it is also a responsibility. There is a responsibility to maintain the fabric of our city.

“When landlords aren’t fulfilling this responsibility, the council will explore compulsory purchase orders.”

He said there is a “considerable amount of bureaucracy” and CPOs don’t “tend to be quick or easy processes”. However, he added often the threat of a compulsory purchase can lead to an owner taking action to improve their property.

The council has to pay market compensation to owners and the officer said, before any transfer, properties will be valued by the district valuer or City Property.

Funding for the purchases is made available through the affordable housing supply programme, a Scottish Government fund. Scottish Ministers must confirm the compulsory purchases before they can go ahead.


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