New powers for councils to tackle empty homes

Scottish local authorities are set to receive new powers to tackle the problem of empty homes, and help raise millions to build new affordable homes. Proposals from the Scottish Government for a Council Tax on Empty Homes and Housing Support Grant Bill could apply to the 25,000 properties that have currently been empty for more than six months and are liable to pay council tax. If all local authorities decide to use the maximum powers, they could raise up to £30 million per year to spend on much-needed affordable homes in Scotland.

The bill will also abolish the Housing Support Grant, which was originally established to subsidise local authorities’ housing budgets by helping pay interest on housing debts.

Launching a consultation on the proposals, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil said the Scottish Government was doing all it could to increase the supply of affordable housing across the country.

“One way to do this is to tackle the problem of empty homes, which are a wasted resource and often also a blight on local communities as they attract vandalism”, he said.

“We are proposing to bring forward legislation to allow Councils to charge a Council Tax levy on homes which have been empty for more than six months.

“It will be up to each Council to decide if they want to use the new powers, which could encourage more owners to rent or sell their empty homes.”

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland said they welcomed the proposals to tax the owners of empty homes. “With 25,000 long-term private empty homes across Scotland, this is a step in the right direction”, he said.