Long-term empty homes in Scotland are costing their owners £255 million annually, according to a body tasked with bringing them back into use.
The figures were revealed by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) which has said the country’s 34,000 empty homes are losing on an average of £7,500 a year.
The losses come from a combination of rent that could have been charged and the bills for council tax, insurance and security that still have to be paid on empty buildings.
This has a knock-on effect to local economies which the partnership says are missing out on almost half a billion pounds because the homes lie empty with no-one in them to spend in their locality. On average each household contributes £13,000 of value to their local community which the SEHP says could be creating and sustaining livelihoods.
Run by housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, the SEHP says that owners are missing out if they fail to make the most of their assets which also have the potential to play a role in housing people badly in need of affordable homes.
It also wants more local councils to recognise the value to the economy of tackling empty homes.
Kristen Hubert, SEHP national manager, said: “It doesn’t make sense for people to leave a property sitting empty when it could be bringing in money for them and providing a home for someone who needs one.
“I hope these figures encourage people with an empty property to get in touch with us or an empty homes officer at their local council to get advice on how to bring it back into use. There is a lot of help available to make it possible for people to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of moving back into a property, letting it out or selling it.
“We’d also like to see more councils employing dedicated empty homes officers who can support owners and members of the communities worried about an empty home in their area.”
Kevin Stewart MSP, Scottish Government housing minister, said that the Scottish Government has provided dedicated funding to tackle empty homes, including the £4.5 million Empty Homes Loan Fund and the £4 million Town Centre Empty Homes Fund, as well as the new £25 million Rural Housing Fund and £5 million Islands Housing Fund launched earlier this year.
He said: “Empty homes are a blight on both urban and rural communities which is why the Scottish Government supports the work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to deliver real results on the ground.
“To add to this range of tools available to tackle this issue we are committed to bringing forward provisions for Compulsory Sales Orders as part of the on-going programme of land reform measures.”
A change to the rules on council tax means discounts can be abolished and local authorities are now able to charge up to 200 per cent on a property which has been allowed to lie empty long term. This means £5 million has been generated in extra council tax to fund local services.
The SEHP runs a free national help service for members of the public to report empty homes and for owners to seek help in renovating their properties which can be contacted on 0344 515 1941 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org