A £2 million loan fund will be launched to help stop empty homes blighting Scotland’s communities, Housing Minister Keith Brown said today.
The new funding was announced as the Unoccupied Properties Bill, which will allow local authorities to charge extra Council Tax on houses that have been empty for more than a year, was introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
The new loan fund will be specifically targeted at projects to bring empty homes into use for affordable housing. For example, this could include council or housing association schemes offering loans to help owners renovate their homes in exchange for the properties being made available as affordable housing.
Scotland’s high streets will also be boosted by the Bill, which will reduce the business rates discount for some empty commercial properties from 50 per cent to 10 per cent. This will encourage owners to bring empty shops back into use.
Even after reform, the relief on offer for empty commercial properties in Scotland will remain significantly more generous than in England. Overall, Scotland continues to provide the UK’s most generous business rates relief package, which offers tax breaks worth well over £500m annually to Scottish businesses.
Mr Brown said:
“Long term empty homes are a blight on communities. They often fall into disrepair, and become a focus for antisocial behaviour like vandalism or fly tipping.
“We will not simply stand by and let this continue to happen. That is why we have introduced an Unoccupied Properties Bill that will allow councils to increase council tax on certain empty homes. That should be a strong incentive for owners who are simply ignoring empty homes to either sell or let the property to someone who needs it, or bring it back into use themselves.”