Friday, 9 September 2011

Empty homes contrast with housing need

AS THE MEDIA scrutinise the legislative programme put forward by the Scottish Government, attention is returning to the problems of homelessness and lack of affordable housing - issues which many who gave evidence to the Poverty Truth Commission highlighted.

Scotland has some 23,000 empty private homes, while  more than 160,000 families, couples and single people are stuck on waiting lists for social housing.

Campaigners and those at the tough end of the national housing crisis say that tackling the problem of vacan properties across the country is important. They want incentives as well as disincentives to change the situation.

The Scottish Government is talking of legislation to allow local authorities to scrap the 50 per cent council tax discount on empty homes.

Proponents say that this could raise an extra £30 million in revenue each year. The money could then be put towards affordable housing schemes, as well as taking away the financial incentive for owners to keep their properties empty.

Kirsten Miller, Shelter Scotland's empty homes co-ordinator, commented: "Councils also have to provide help and advice. A council tax levy is not going to make a huge difference. They need to reach out to the ones that are really stuck and really need help.

She continued: "The ones we are most concerned about are the ones empty for six to 12 months. Usually, something has gone wrong for the owners, or they are afraid of becoming a landlord, or someone has died and there is some uncertainty as to who is to inherit it."

"Empty homes are a disgraceful waste at a time when housing demand outstrips supply. With fewer homes being built, there is no end in sight for the tens of thousands of households in Scotland stuck on housing waiting lists," said Ms Miller

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