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Rennie calls for action on bringing back empty homes into use

September 9, 2011 6:33 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has called on the SNP Government to bring forward their plans for bringing empty homes back into use.

At present, there are around 70,000 houses in Scotland currently sitting empty. The SNP Government needs to focus on tackling this, especially given the housing pressures facing Scotland.

At the last election, the Scottish Liberal Democrats proposed incentives for private house owners to bring their properties back into use. Our plans were for a new system of grants, of up to £10,000, to home-owners who bring homes back into use, provided that they then allow a housing association to rent it out for a period of 10 years.

Scottish Liberal Democrat plans would be an innovative way to provide more homes in the rental sector in Scotland. It is cheaper and greener to renovate existing properties and it could create thousands of new jobs in the construction sector.

Commenting Mr Rennie said:

"I have a number of properties in my local area which have been derelict for many years. These are an eyesore and I regularly get complaints and concerns raised about them.

"It is a scandal that with so many people looking for housing in Scotland there are properties standing empty that could be brought back into use.

"The new SNP Government have indicated that they wish to legislate on this matter and extend the Shelter Scotland Empty Homes Scheme to both identify empty homes and then bring them back into use, but we need more information on how Councils will be able to use the information on empty homes in their area.

"If we used the information provided by those who are claiming Council Tax exemption for empty homes, it could allow Councils to investigate why owners keep houses empty as well as what might be done to enable owners to make them available for use.

"The benefits of using existing housing are obvious. It benefits neighbours in the communities in which they are found but it also avoids problems with having to get planning permission.

"I know that in England, the Westminster Government is bringing forward plans to make better use of the 740,000 empty homes that exist there. In Scotland, it is estimated that there are far fewer empty homes - only 70,000, but this would make a huge difference to those who are looking for affordable properties.

"It might also be possible to introduce innovative schemes for charities to be given properties to refurbish them and would provide work for unemployed people who are looking to improve their skills."