Bringing empty Falkirk homes back into use

Several examples of abandoned properties from across the Falkirk district. Photo montage: Michael Gillen
Several examples of abandoned properties from across the Falkirk district. Photo montage: Michael Gillen

A council worker who brings empty homes back into use to counter a chronic shortage of housing has won an award for her work.

Allyson Allison has brought more than 130 empty properties back into use since 2013 through her work as an officer for the Forth Valley Empty Homes Project – a partnership between Falkirk and Stirling councils.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, Allyson Allison and Adam Lang of Shelter Scotland

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, Allyson Allison and Adam Lang of Shelter Scotland

According to homeless charity Shelter figures, 3984 affordable homes in the Falkirk district have been lost to Right To Buy since 2002; the number of people on Falkirk Council’s main housing list was 9982 in March last year and homelessness is rising locally.

The mother-of-one’s work involves receiving referrals about empty privately-owned houses that have been neglected and are an eyesore in local communities.

Allyson, who has 30 years’ experience working in the housing sector, then contacts owners to work out a plan to get the property back into use.

It can take months of delicate negotiations and perseverance to get uninterested owners of long-term empty houses motivated to refurbish their properties to rent out to families struggling to find homes.

Some of the properties are an eyesore and they can impact on communities in many different ways

Allyson Allison

But this, she says, is the greatest reward.

For her dedication she picked up the ‘Scotland’s Outstanding Empty Homes Practitioner’ award at the Scottish Empty Homes conference.

She said: “It’s nice to see my work being recognised, it was a really nice surprise.

“My job is very varied, very challenging but it is very rewarding. Obviously there is the housing shortage so we have to make best use of the existing housing stock.

“Some of the properties are an eyesore and they can impact on communities in many different ways, such as bringing down house prices or being a health risk.”

The Falkirk Herald reported last year on the scale of abandoned properties in the district and across the country.

One of the most infamous examples locally was 8 Bonnyfield Road, Bonnybridge - a detached bungalow that lay empty for more than a decade, causing misery for neighbours. It was eventually made subject to a compulsory purchase order and then resold on the private market.