Scots back action against owners of empty homes but almost half say they wouldn’t report one
A majority of Scots agree that empty homes lead to a reduction in the amount of available housing and believe private owners of empty homes should be pressured to bring them back into use, according to new opinion polling.
Research carried out by YouGov for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) found that 68% of adults in Scotland say the availability of homes is reduced by empty homes and that 59% think the private owners of long-term empty homes should be encouraged to bring them back into use.
Despite this, 43% of adults in Scotland said they wouldn’t report an empty home to anyone if they noticed one in their local area, while 15% weren’t sure who they would report it to. Apathy towards reporting is highest among those living in Glasgow and the Lothians (both 46%).
Shaheena Din, national manager for the SEHP, said: “These figures show that most people recognise that empty homes aren’t just a matter for their owners but lead to fewer homes being available for local people.
“We want to make it easier for people to do something about the issue by reporting empty property to their local council or our Empty Homes Advice Service. We have a proven track record of giving owners and others the support they need to make these properties homes once again.”
The owners of Scotland’s 39,110 long-term empty homes can face a levy of up to 200% on their council tax if they are not doing anything to bring the property back into use. The SEHP wants to see some of that money ring-fenced to provide a service for owners and for the levy to be applied with discretion, for example giving leeway to owners carrying out expensive repairs.
Shaheena Din added: “At the moment we’re working with empty homes officers in 20 out of Scotland’s 32 councils.
“It’s often life events like inheritance or moving away for work that creates an empty home and in our experience many owners are willing to take action if given a bit of help. That’s why we’re keen to work with more councils to set up their own services.”
The YouGov research also found that half of adults in Scotland felt that private homeowners should not be allowed to let a residential property sit empty. This rose to 59% in the Highlands and Islands.
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is run by Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, has enjoyed a record-breaking year. The SEHP supports a network of empty homes officers working in 20 councils across the country who helped to bring 1,128 properties back into use in the last full year. It brings the total number of homes brought back into use with direct support from councils or the Empty Homes Advice Service since 2010 to 4,340 which is roughly equivalent to a town the size of Peebles.