Turnbull looks south for empty homes solution

A local councillor is hoping a successful social housing refurbishment scheme which operates south of the Border can be replicated in Hawick.

George Turnbull attended the Scottish Empty Homes Conference in Glasgow late last year and met officials from Coast to Country Housing Limited who are based in Redcar. And this week, he invited Lesley Conroy, the company’s housing manager, to Hawick to meet councillors and officials and to give a presentation to the Teviotdale and Liddesdale Area forum.

Ms Conroy explained to Tuesday’s meeting that her company was a non-profit making venture and that they have been instrumental in restoring derelict houses in the Tees Valley, Scarborough, Filey and Durham.

She said: “Some of the properties had been empty for almost 40 years and using the long-term unemployed –who gained vital skills – and apprentices, the homes were refurbished and then rented out to people – some of whom were homeless.”

The company started out by acquiring 10 homes and spending £250,000 on the refurbishment programme.

Ms Conroy said the company worked alongside house owners to refurbish properties, and recouped their investment from a share of rental income.

Properties were leased for either five or ten years and this aided continuity and offered stability to tenants.

Mr Turnbull said he would welcome the opportunity of exploring local options further and community council chair Marion Short thanked Ms Conroy for an informative presentation, and added: “I am wondering if this could be rolled out in Hawick to include commercial properties. This could really benefit the High Street.”

Ms Conroy said her company hadn’t refurbished any commercial properties but she saw no reason why this would not work.