Value of empty homes estimated at £3.4bn as surcharge increase urged

The number of properties that have been unoccupied for 12 months or more reached 28,280 in 2023 – up 70% from 16,527 in 2014.

Value of empty homes in Scotland estimated at £3.4bn as surcharge increase urged STV News

Long-term empty properties in Scotland now have an estimated value of more than £3bn, analysis has revealed.

The number of properties that have been unoccupied for 12 months or more reached 28,280 in 2023 – up 70% from 16,527 in 2014.

Scottish Labour has urged the Scottish Government to further hike council tax on empty homes amid a growing homelessness crisis.

Calculations provided by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre estimated the value of empty homes is around £3.4bn.

The figure was calculated using lower quartile house price data, but if median house price data is used the value of the 28,280 homes could be around £5.7bn, the analysis said.

Councils are able to place a surcharge up to 100% on council tax on properties which have been unoccupied for more than a year.

But Scottish Labour said the measure, which aims to encourage owners to bring empty homes back into use, does not go far enough.

Instead, the party proposes ramping up council tax surcharges on long-term empty homes to create a package of funds used to tackle the housing emergency.

Mark Griffin, housing spokesman for Scottish Labour, said: “The SNP and Greens’ shocking inaction on Scotland’s empty homes has left billions of pounds worth of housing stock on the table while thousands of people struggle to find a home.

“Homelessness in Scotland is soaring, but instead of gripping this crisis head on, this Government refuses to accept there is even a crisis to begin with.

“Taxing these properties properly and returning some of Scotland’s long-term empty homes to the market would go a long way towards fixing this problem, but instead things are only getting worse.

“The SNP and the Greens voted unanimously against declaring a housing emergency in Scotland. With the SNP they talk one way and act another.

“We need real action to ramp up the council tax surcharges on homes lying empty for years and raise more cash to tackle the housing emergency.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Tackling empty homes is a priority for Scottish Government. We continue to fund the work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and councils already have broad compulsory purchase powers which can be used for a range of purposes.

“New powers enabling councils to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes from April 1 2024 have now been approved by Parliament.

“This change to council tax was a commitment made in the Programme for Government and aims to make sure the tax system works as an incentive to prioritise homes for living in.”

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