Scotland’s empty homes estimated to be worth £3.4bn
The Scottish Government has been urged to take action on long-term empty homes after new analysis estimated their total value to be more than £3 billion.
According to figures revealed by Scottish Labour, 28,28 homes have sat empty for over 12 months in Scotland. The true value of these homes was estimated to be £3.7bn.
In February last year, Scottish Labour proposed to raise £85 million every year to tackle the housing emergency with a package of measures including ramping up the council tax surcharges on long-term empty homes. The party has criticised ministers for failing to bring forward legislation to make the changes.
The party is now urging the Scottish Government to further increase council tax on empty homes amid a growing homelessness crisis.
Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “The SNP and Green’s 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.”
Calculations provided by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre estimated the value of empty homes is around £3.4 billion.
The figure was calculated using lower quartile house price data, but if median house price data is used the value of the homes could be as much as £5.7 billion, 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.
“Does not go far enough”
But Scottish Labour said the measure, which aims to encourage owners to bring empty homes back into use, does not go far enough.
Mr Griffin added: “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.”