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.
Town Centre Empty Homes Fund
The Scottish Government has launched a call for bids for its £4m Town Centre Empty Homes Fund. The fund hopes to create additional residential accommodation in Scotland’s urban and rural towns by funding projects to convert disused commercial premises into residential and to target problematic empty homes that require extensive refurbishment to make them habitable again. The fund is open for bids until 21 August 2015 and further details are in the scheme outline.
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. In 2014/15, 13 councils were making use of the power.
Empty Homes Loan Fund
The Scottish Government introduced an Empty Homes Loan Fund to provide loans to organisations to help them renovate empty homes and make them 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 Empty Homes Loan Fund page provides more information and details of the projects that secured funding.
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.
The Scottish Government has extended funding for the partnership until March 2015.
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 has part funded a number of empty homes officers and in some areas Empty Homes Officers are funded by local authorities in shared services projects. In 2014/15, 16 councils have access to a dedicated empty homes office of which some continue to be part funded by Scottish Government. You can fine their contact details at: http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/housing_policy/empty_homes/concerned_about_empty_homes