A NEW partnership has been launched that will see empty homes in Argyll and Bute being brought back into use to help to tackle the shortage of affordable housing for health and social care workers.

The two-year project is being funded by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) and Argyll and Bute Health & Social Care Partnership (A&B HSCP), and administered by Argyll and Bute Council.

The project, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, will see the appointment of a new empty homes project officer who will work with partners and private empty homes owners in areas where A&B HSCP has found that a shortage of suitable local accommodation has impacted on their ability to recruit new team members.

The officer will work A&B HSCP to establish local housing needs including type, size and locations.

They will then look to identify suitable empty home matches and liaise with owners and registered social landlords.

Shaheena Din, national project manager at the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “We are truly excited to be launching a groundbreaking project that will both tackle the issue of empty homes in Argyll and Bute, and provide much-needed housing for remote essential workers.

“Innovation and partnership must be at the heart of addressing Scotland’s housing challenges and we are delighted to have come together as a partnership with common goals.

“Scotland’s Housing Minister, Paul McLennan, recently emphasised that good-quality affordable housing is essential to attract and retain people in rural communities, particularly in areas where key workers are needed, and we hope this partnership will prove to be one example of how this can be achieved.”

The project aims to bring 20 properties into use under private tenancy agreements.

James Gow, head of finance at A&B HSCP said: “The availability of suitable housing is often perceived to be a barrier to people relocating to enjoy the benefits of living and working in Argyll and Bute. This project will help us recruit the staff we need to continue to provide essential health and social care services.”

The empty homes project officer role will sit within the Argyll and Bute Council housing services team, which will offer practical support and financial assistance to bring properties back into use.

Argyll and Bute Council leader Councillor Robin Currie said: “Argyll and Bute’s economic success is built on a growing population. We are committed to finding local housing solutions to help grow our population and Argyll and Bute’s economy.

“Working in partnership is key to this success and we are delighted to be working with our partners to identify housing solutions that will ultimately benefit public services.”