Scottish Borders approves tax increase to tackle empty homes

Scottish Borders CouncilScottish Borders Council has approved measures to increase the council tax paid on properties that have been empty for two or more years in an effort to bring hundreds derelict homes back into use.

Currently, owners of homes in the Borders which have lain empty for a long period have to pay 90 per cent of the amount due if the home was occupied.

However, yesterday councillors voted to use powers which would allow them to charge twice the standard level.

There are approximately 36,000 empty homes in Scotland and over 1,300 in the Scottish Borders.

It has been estimated it could generate an extra £900,000 although that figure might fall as homes are occupied.

The levy would not apply to homes which are unoccupied because they are being renovated unless they then lie empty for two years or more.

New build properties would also be exempt from the measure if they are being genuinely marketed for sale or let at a realistic price.

The charge would also not be applied to holiday properties.

A report to councillors has recommended that the new measure be brought in from 1 April.

It stressed that the driving force behind the measure was not to raise money but to encourage owners of long-term empty dwellings to bring them back into use.

With Scotland facing a housing shortage, Sarah Beattie-Smith from the Scottish Green Party stressed that putting empty homes back into use was “the responsible” thing to do.

The lead MSP candidate for South of Scotland said: “It’s baffling that thousands of perfectly decent homes sit empty while people struggle to get a roof over their heads. Letting these properties stay unused is a huge waste - but by getting them back on the market, they could really help ease Scotland’s housing crisis.”

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