Push for compulsory sales to help the homeless

Radical new powers which could see the sale ordered of thousands of empty homes across the country are expected to be introduced as a priority to tackle the country’s housing crisis.

Vacant properties being developed in Kilmarnock and Newmills. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The lack of action to tackle the problem has been branded a “disgrace” by opposition parties, after housing minister Kevin Stewart pledged he would press ahead with compulsory sale orders (CSOs) by the end of the current Parliament in 2021.

There are almost 80,000 homes empty across Scotland, a report by Holyrood’s local Government and Communities committee warns.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Town Halls are also misusing the council tax levy, which allows them tax breaks on empty properties and to charge a council tax increase of up to 100 per cent, often making the problem worse.

“Empty homes are a blight upon communities across Scotland and represent a wasted resource at a time when housing supply is limited,” committee convenor James Dornan said.

“The low take-up of Compulsory Purchase Orders is something we’d like to see reviewed, while we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has not introduced Compulsory Sales Orders which could empower local government to solve empty homes problems in their areas.

“It is also absolutely essential that we tackle empty homes as part of a wider strategy to regenerate town centres, improve housing supply and support vibrant communities.”

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.

Housing minister Stewart said: “The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership brought 1,128 long-term empty 
homes back into use last 
year, an increase of more than 300 on the previous year. We are investing £400,000 annually to support the partnership and bring dedicated Empty Homes Officers to all parts of the country.”

Tory housing spokesman Graham Simpson hit out at the number of empty homes in Scotland. He said: “When we have a homelessness crisis and when youngsters struggle to get a foot on the housing ladder this is a disgrace. Too little is being done to address this.”