The number of properties and second homes left empty over the long-term in Scotland has risen for the third successive year, a new report has found.
There were to 65,277 domestic addresses lying empty as of September 2019 – a rise of 1,260 properties (two per cent) year-on-year – but slightly lower than the equivalent total of 66,053 properties recorded as of September 2012.
Tackling the number of properties left empty in the long-term has become a priority for Scotland’s 32 councils in recent years, but housing charities have warned more still needs to be done to bring down the total.
The lack of action to tackle the problem was last month branded a “disgrace” by opposition parties, while housing minister Kevin Stewart pledged he would press ahead with compulsory sale orders (CSOs) by the end of the current Parliament in 2021.
While there was a rise in the number of long-term empty properties and second homes, the number of new build homes completed rose by 18% in the year to the end of June 2019.
A total of 21,403 homes were completed in 2019 – 3,210 more than the number of homes completed in 2018.
It is the highest level for completions since 2008.
Shaheena Din, national manager of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is run by Shelter Scotland, said councils faced the challenge of providing support for owners to bring empty properties back into use.
“Most homes become empty due to natural life events such as people dying or moving into residential care,” she said.
“The challenge for local authorities is to provide effective support to owners to bring them back into use so they don’t get stuck empty for years.
“Last year, the combined effort of empty homes officers in 20 local councils in Scotland and our own Empty Homes Advice Service brought back 1,128 homes.
“The latest figures for the current year show that another record-breaking year is in sight.”
Empty homes, abandoned shops, derelict hotels and gap sites could be among those targeted by the introduction of compulsory sale orders which allow councils to force owners to sell such sites at auction.
These differ from compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) as councils don’t have to make the purchase themselves.
Welcoming the increase in the number of new homes completed, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “These figures demonstrate how we are delivering more housing in Scotland.
“From private to social housing, it is encouraging that both new build starts and completions have increased this year, providing more people with a warm, safe place they can call home.
“The increase points to the strength of Scotland’s new build housing sector. We shall continue to push towards our ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.”
By CHRIS MCCALL