A Holyrood Committee has called on the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitment and introduce compulsory sales orders to tackle the blight of empty homes.
The call is part of a series of recommendations made in the Local Government and Communities Committee’s report into Scotland’s empty homes. Recent figures have shown that over 3% of Scotland’s 2.62 million dwellings are empty and the report highlights the hugely negative impact that empty homes have on Scotland’s communities.
The Committee has also said it is unacceptable that the council tax levy, which allows local authorities to remove the discount on empty properties and charge a council tax increase of up to 100%, is being over-used by some councils. In some cases, the levy is being used as a revenue raising tool, exacerbating the empty homes problem rather than solving it.
James Dornan MSP, Convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee, said:
“Empty Homes are a blight upon communities across Scotland and represent a wasted resource at a time when housing supply is limited.
“The evidence we have gathered makes it clear there is not a one-size fits all solution to this problem.
“It is not acceptable that the council tax levy is being used by some councils as a revenue raising tool meaning people taking active steps to bring a property back into use can end up being penalised. We’d encourage more discretion in the use of this levy by local authorities.
“We’d also implore every council to employ an Empty Homes Officer as we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact they can have in bringing empty homes back into use.
“The low take-up of Compulsory Purchase Orders is something we’d like to see reviewed, while we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has not introduced Compulsory Sales Orders which could empower local government to solve empty homes problems in their areas.
“It is also absolutely essential that we tackle empty homes as part of a wider strategy to regenerate town centres, improve housing supply and support vibrant communities.”
Other findings in the report include:
• the Committee welcoming the possible use of GIS mapping by local authorities to help create a more accurate picture of the number of empty homes in Scotland.
• support for the work of Scotland’s Empty Homes Partnership; with the Committee encouraging the Scottish Government to work with COSLA and the Partnership to ensure best practice in tackling empty homes is shared.
• highlighting the distinct challenge of dealing with empty homes in rural communities and the Committee calling for the Scottish Government to review the Rural and Islands Housing Fund.
Please note the Committee did not look at second homes as part of its inquiry, as these are distinct from empty homes.
The Committee’s inquiry was launched on 4 April 2019. The focus of this inquiry was to examine the scale of the empty homes issue, the effectiveness of current legislation and what more can be done to prevent properties remaining empty for extended periods of time.