Scottish Government urged to secure empty homes dividend
29 December 2014
The Scottish Government should use funds raised from a new tax on empty homes to fund a programme of renovation for Scotland’s 23,000 long-term empty properties.
This is our response to a Scottish Government consultation to give councils new powers to increase council tax – up to double the standard charge - on long term empty homes. 23,000 private homes in Scotland have been lying empty for six months or more.
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“What we need is a package of carrots and sticks. The incentive is that owners will get help to bring the property into use, whether to rent or to sell. This is a win for the owner, for the community and for the new occupants. The stick is the financial penalty on property that lies empty and unused for a long time and where the owner is not engaging with a local authority.
“But that will not happen if the additional tax income simply disappears into the general funds of councils. Scottish ministers need to make clear that they expect to see an empty homes dividend.”
At present, owners of long-term empty homes are charged council tax at between 50% and a maximum 90% of the standard charge. The first 50% of the tax goes into the general council tax pot; with the remaining sum earmarked for investment in affordable housing.
The Scottish Government has proposed increasing that maximum amount to up to 200% - double the standard charge. Whilst we welcome that move, the tax will work best as part of a package which offers advice and assistance to owners and where financial assistance such as loans are offered to owners if necessary. For that to happen the Scottish Government needs to ensure that all additional income is retained for affordable housing.
The consultation comes on the back of a week-long series of programmes on the Great British Property Scandal, with a major emphasis on the problem of empty homes. The campaign has had 92,719 sign ups and 4,823 empty homes have been reported. Meanwhile the number of empty properties reported to the reportemptyhomes.com website has doubled. The website allows members of the public to report the address or postcode of a suspected empty home with the information then fed back to the council.