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By Adam Branson Friday, 04 November 2011
Scottish local authorities would be able to charge up to twice the usual rate of council tax on properties that have lain empty for more than six months and use the money to build affordable homes under proposals unveiled by the country's housing minister.
Under the plans put forward by Alex Neil, councils would also be required to demand that home owners pay council tax in full after their properties have been empty for more than six months.
At present, owners pay no council tax for the first six months that their property is left empty. After six months, they start paying council tax, but at a discount of ten to 50 per cent, depending on the policies of the local authority.
Neil said that, if all local authorities decided to use the proposed powers to charge twice the standard rate of council tax on empty homes, it could bring in an additional £30 million each year, which he said would be used for the construction of affordable homes.
Neil said: "Although the public purse is under huge strain, the Scottish government is doing all it can to increase the supply of affordable housing across the country. One way to do this is to tackle the problem of empty homes, which are a wasted resource and are often also a blight on local communities as they attract vandalism."
A consultation on the proposals runs until 10 January.
Dry-as-sticks ScotGov material here:
While the great majority of Councils have reduced the level of Council Tax discount provided for long-term empty properties, the reduced discounts on their own do not seem to have provided a sufficient incentive for most owners who did not otherwise plan to make their home available; in fact, data suggests that the number of long- term empty homes in Scotland has increased slightly in recent years.
We propose to bring forward legislation to the Scottish Parliament which would give Scottish Councils the extra flexibility to increase the amount of Council Tax charged on long-term empty homes. This flexibility will help Councils, particularly in areas with high levels of need for affordable or market housing. It is expected both to encourage home owners to bring their properties back into use – either for rent or for sale – and to raise additional revenue to fund affordable housing in their area.
We propose that the legislation should allow Councils both to no longer provide any discount for long-term empty homes and, in addition, to apply an excess charge (or ‘levy’) of up to 100% of the standard Council Tax rate for homes that are unoccupied long-term. This means that owners of these empty properties could be charged up to double the rate payable by home owners paying the standard rate.
Bringing long-term empty properties back into use would increase the number of homes available in a local area, contribute to area and town centre regeneration, discourage antisocial behaviour and help sustain rural communities.
My thirst for justice would have been slaked by an end to discounts for empty homes. An excess charge, IMHO, is unjustly punitive.
Get yourself over and fill in the consultation online form:
Participative democracy. You gotta love it!