The Scottish Government's review of the Private Rented Sector identified the need for more focus on bringing empty homes back into use. Following this review, the Scottish Government is funding a partnership with Shelter Scotland to help councils to work with empty home owners.
Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Act 2012
The Scottish Government is keen to encourage empty home owners to bring their properties back into use to increase the supply of housing in Scotland (both to rent and to buy) and particularly to help tackle the shortage of affordable housing. At the moment, there are around 25,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland that are liable for Council Tax. The Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Act 2012 and its subsequent regulations allow councils to both remove the discount on certain types of unoccupied homes and to increase the level of council tax payable on these properties. The new powers came into effect on 1 April 2013. It is up to individual councils to decide if a council tax increase is appropriate in their area.
Empty Homes Loan Fund
The Scottish Government has launched an Empty Homes Loan Fund to provide loans to organisations to help them renovate empty homes and make tham available as affordable housing. Seventeen projects have been approved for funding and £4.5 million has been offered, an increase over the £4 million originally set for the fund. Over the ten-year life of the fund, up to 478 houses could be refurbished.
The successful projects are as follows:
| Project || Council Area(s) Covered || Total Number |
| Funding |
| Glengate Hall || Angus || 10 || £253,733 |
| Keptie Project || Angus || 7 || £52,000 |
| Angus Empty Homes Bid || Angus || 7 || £120,000 |
| Glasgow Empty Homes Loan Fund Partnership Programme || Glasgow || 25 || £700,000 |
| Edinburgh Empty Homes Loan Fund || Edinburgh || 70 || £750,000 |
| Highlands Empty Homes Initiative || Highlands || 30 || £400,000 |
| Inverclyde Empty Homes Initiative || Inverclyde || 40 || £370,000 |
| West Dunbartonshire/ Renfrewshire Empty Homes Project || West Dunbartonshire/ Renfrewshire || 30 || £300,000 |
| North Ayrshire Empty Homes Recyclable Loan Fund || North Ayrshire || 50 || £200,000 |
| Home Again Empty Homes Loan Bid || Scottish Borders, Fife, East Lothian || 96 || £450,000 |
| Outer Hebrides Empty Homes Scheme || Comhairle nan Eilean Siar || 10 || £155,000 |
| Homes Again Project - West Lothian Council bid || West Lothian || 32 || £150,000 |
| Midlothian Empty Homes Loan Fund || Midlothian || 10 || £125,000 |
| Rural Stirling Empty Homes project || Stirling || 6 || £90,000 |
| Private Sector Empty Homes Loan Fund || East Ayrshire || 25 || £250,000 |
| Falkirk Empty Homes Loan Fund || Falkirk || 20 || £100,000 |
| Clackmannanshire Town Centre Empty Homes Initiative || Clackmannanshire || 10 || £75,000 |
| || || 478 || £4,540,733 |
Empty Homes Partnership
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership provides support for councils including the creation of an Empty Homes Practitioner Network and specific advice and information. Through the partnership, a number of Scottish councils have signed up to using the Report Empty Homes website, where members of the public can report the address or postcode of a suspected empty home. This information is then passed on to the appropriate local authority so they can investigate and, if appropriate, get in touch with the owner.
The Scottish Government has extended funding for the partnership until March 2014.
Shelter Scotland has produced some useful summary guidance for empty homes owners.
More information on the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is on the Shelter Scotland website.
Shared Service Empty Homes Officers
Following on from the success of the Empty Homes Partnership, the Scottish Government is part funding a pilot exercise employing four empty homes officers covering ten local authority areas across Scotland. The Homes Again project which covers the South and East of Scotland (West Lothian, East Lothian, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders councils) has recently been offered a year's extension to their project until March 2014. Homes Again West, which covers West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire, is at an earlier stage than the project in the South and East. We have recently agreed to part fund one additional empty homes officer who will cover Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Falkirk.