A £2 million loan fund will be launched to help stop empty homes ‘blighting’ Scottish communities, Housing Minister Keith Brown has announced.
The loan fund was confirmed as the Unoccupied Properties Bill, which will allow local authorities to charge extra Council Tax on houses that have been lying empty for more than a year, was introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
Housing Minister Keith Brown said:
“Long term empty homes are a blight on communities. They often fall into disrepair, and become a focus for antisocial behaviour like vandalism or fly tipping.
“We will not simply stand by and let this continue to happen. That is why we have introduced an Unoccupied Properties Bill that will allow councils to increase council tax on certain empty homes. That should be a strong incentive for owners who are simply ignoring empty homes to either sell or let the property to someone who needs it, or bring it back into use themselves.
“The Loan Fund will add to our concerted action on tackling empty homes. It will give innovative schemes the extra funding boost needed to take radical action to get empty homes back into use.
“Both these measures will also stimulate sustainable economic growth by supporting jobs where properties need renovation work.”
Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said:
“The Scottish Government wants to see thriving town centres across the country. Our plans to reform empty property relief will introduce incentives to reduce the numbers of empty shops that hold back the development of our high streets.
“Even after reform, the relief on offer for empty commercial properties in Scotland will remain significantly more generous in Scotland than in England.”
Kristen Hubert, Coordinator of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland, said:
“This £2million loan fund and new powers for councils are great news and a step in the right direction for tackling Scotland’s private sector empty homes.
“We would also like to see councils who choose to charge a council tax levy on long-term empty homes recycle some of that money back into empty homes work. This would provide the help and incentives that homeowners need to bring their properties back into use.
“Bringing empty homes back into use requires both the carrot and the stick approach and this bill, along with the £2 million loan fund, will enable councils to use both.”
The SFHA’s Chief Executive Mary Taylor commented:
“Any empty property represents a form of blight as well as being a waste of an asset. Many of the residential properties affected will be in private ownership and will have been empty for long periods. Some properties have been abandoned as well.
“Investment could help to bring such properties back into use. But much depends on the cost and funding of necessary works to make them habitable and some may be beyond economic repair.
“Some local authorities are already planning to employ specialist staff to stimulate and co-ordinate action on empty homes. Housing associations could be valuable partners to councils and could play a role in bringing such properties back into use – for example by liaising with owners, arranging repair works, helping to arrange loans for owners to allow them to sell or let their property. They could even acquire and bring properties back into use as affordable rented housing, depending on availability of funding.
“Unfortunately £2m isn’t much for the whole of Scotland but any council tax collected on empty properties could contribute to raising finance.”