No one-sized-fits-all solution to empty homes in Scotland

Press Release

A vital link exists between the number of empty homes and the vitality of a remote, rural community, particularly in areas with a declining population.

That was one of a number of key messages to come from a parliamentary debate held earlier this week into empty homes in Scotland. The debate came as a result of a short inquiry held by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee into empty homes in Scotland.

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) engaged comprehensively in the inquiry, submitting written evidence, attending evidence sessions to provide oral evidence and distributing briefings to MSPs.

SLE highlighted the fact that because of the diversity in reasons behind empty homes, Empty Homes Officers, with their on the ground local knowledge are crucial in successfully bringing back these empty properties into use. This sentiment was echoed in the Minister’s statement and across the chamber.

Marcelina Hamilton, Policy Adviser (Rural Business & Property) commented: “We have found that in Local Authorities that do not have Empty Homes Officers there is often an inflexible approach towards empty homes. Both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives highlighted SLE’s concerns about the inconsistent approach taken by Local Authorities in applying the council tax levy and that property owners who are making a concerted effort to bring their homes back into use are being unfairly penalised.

A lot of the debate revolved around the other tools Local Authorities have in tackling empty homes such as CPOs. SLE supported the use of CPOs, as a last result measure, in their written and oral evidence and put forward the view that there seems to be a reluctance on the part of authorities to use these. This was picked up by the Committee and many MSPs echoed SLE’s recommendation in its briefing that the Scottish Government prioritising aiding Local Authorities to use these powers more effectively.

During the debate SNP echoed SLE’s concern that there needs to be much more work done to collect information and data on the extent of empty homes in Scotland.

Marcelina Hamilton continued: “Information should be available as to the extent of empty properties in each local authority, where these properties are located and the condition of these properties. This information should be crucial to informing housing policy as a one-size fits approach all will not be effective. It is heartening that the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has developed a reporting tool for their website. SLE is encouraging members to both report empty homes in their area and proactively engage with the relevant local authority about any empty properties under their ownership.”