Proposals to give local authorities the power to vary empty property relief have been welcomed as a useful addition to the ‘toolkit’ available to help tackle the problem of long term empty homes and businesses.
In its stage one report on the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties) (Scotland) Bill, the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee recognised the impact that empty properties business can have on neighbourhoods and town centres and welcomed the measures contained within the bill aimed at bringing these back into use.
Committee Convener Joe Fitzpatrick MSP said:
“Empty homes and businesses are wasted resources within our communities. They can often attract vandalism and can have a real effect on the neighbourhoods and town centres in which we live and work.
“The measures contained within the Bill provide an additional tool in the toolkit for local authorities to tackle these problems and help overcome the barriers to the regeneration of Scotland’s towns and cities. Our committee welcomes the proposals contained within the bill to address this important issue.”
In addition to the measures to bring empty properties back into use, the committee also welcomed the proposals contained within the Bill for the abolition of the Housing Support Grant and noted that there were other ways in which central government should support the provision of social affordable housing in Scotland.
Homes are defined as long-term empty where they have been empty for six months or longer. Council tax data highlighted by the Scottish Government shows that the number of homes classed as long-term empty increased by 3% from 24,598 in September 2010 to 25,356 in September 2011.
The Housing Support Grant was established to provide local authorities who build up excessive levels of Housing Revenue Account debt to receive a Scottish Government subsidy as long as the debt remains disproportionate in relation to the level of rental income. Shetland Islands Council is the only council which currently receives Housing Support Grant.