Greens call for empty homes to be used to aid homelessness

Patrick Harvie
Patrick Harvie

Patrick Harvie, MSP and co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, has called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to use all their powers to ease Scotland’s housing and homelessness crises by putting empty properties back in use.

Official housing figures published yesterday revealed that there are 36,419 long-term empty properties in Scotland, 17,163 (47 per cent) of which have been empty for over 12 months. The total number of long-term empty properties and second homes has increased by 3,973 properties (7 per cent) from 59,763 in 2014 to 63,736 in 2015.

In 2013, local authorities in Scotland were given new powers to remove council tax reductions associated with empty properties, or to introduce a council tax increase for some long-term empty properties in order to encourage those properties being put back in use.

The figures show that these powers have only been applied to 8,442 properties that have been empty for 12 months or more, with 17 out of 32 local authorities recorded to have made use of the powers. Glasgow City, West Lothian and South Lanarkshire, among others, had no record of applying the powers.

Patrick Harvie branded the figures “troubling” and highlighted that in the midst of a housing crisis where 28,615 Scots are homeless, the Scottish Government and local authorities should make filling empty homes a priority.

The Glasgow MSP said: “This lack of action on empty homes is startling, considering nearly 30,000 people in Scotland are homeless. We cannot let thousands of houses sit empty while people are without a secure home in freezing December weather.

“Filling our empty homes isn’t the sole solution to Scotland’s housing crisis, but it is an absolutely necessary step to providing secure accommodation for everyone. We need to build new houses, but while we wait for construction projects to get underway and be completed, we should be refurbishing and filling the properties that already exist.

“We need local authorities and the Scottish Government to get their priorities right. They already have the tools to put empty homes back in use - all they need now is the conviction to do what’s right for those people who are approaching the holidays with no home to go to.”

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