Scotland

Councils urged to do more to tackle 34,000 empty homes

Boarded-up house
Image caption 34,000 homes are lying empty across Scotland, according to housing charities

Scotland's local authorities have been urged to do more to tackle the problem of empty homes.

Around the country it is estimated there are about 34,000 private homes categorised as long-term empty.

This is almost the same number of households which made homelessness applications in 2015.

The Scottish government said it is committed to introduce legislation to reduce the number of empty homes, as well as vacant and derelict land.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which is funded by the Scottish government, said in 2015 empty properties worth more than £110m were brought back into use.

'Wasted resources'

Kristen Hubert, the organisation's national manager, said: "The SEHP would like to see all of Scotland's local authorities responding pro-actively to the problem of empty homes.

"We think more powers to tackle the blight of empty homes such as a Compulsory Sale Order would give them the ability to force a long-term empty property or piece of land onto the open market if it hasn't been used in three years and shows no prospect of reuse."

The Scottish government's Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: "Empty homes are a wasted resource and can be a blight on local communities.

"That's why the Scottish government supports the work of SEHP to deliver real results on the ground. Since 2010 the partnership has brought almost 1,700 homes back into use and helped 17 local authorities to appoint dedicated empty homes officers.

"To add to the range of tools available to tackle empty homes, we are committed to bringing forward provisions for Compulsory Sales Orders as part of on-going land reform measures."

SEHP published a survey which suggested three in every four adults in Scotland thought empty homes directly caused anti-social behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, vandalism, fly-tipping and break-ins are all associated with properties lying empty for long periods, the survey, carried out by YouGov suggested.

'Vandalised with graffiti'

It also suggested a majority (54%) of Scottish adults felt those living nearby the empty homes had a decreased sense of security and 60% thought empty homes contributed directly to a reduction in the availability of housing.

About a half (49%) thought empty homes lowered the value of local properties.

Ms Hubert said: "This survey shows just how concerned people in Scotland are about empty homes in their communities.

"No-one likes to see empty properties being vandalised with graffiti all over them or with fly-tipping taking place. The fact that only 3% of Scottish adults think empty homes cause no problems is very telling."

According to the housing charity Shelter Scotland there are currently about 34,000 long-term private empty homes across Scotland with 150,000 families and individuals on waiting lists for a home.

In 2015, nearly 35,000 homelessness applications were made by households in Scotland.