The new loan fund will be specifically targeted at projects to bring empty homes into use for affordable housing. For example, this could include council or housing association schemes offering loans to help owners renovate their homes in exchange for the properties being made available as affordable housing.
Scotland’s high streets will also be boosted by the Bill, which will reduce the business rates discount for some empty commercial properties from 50 per cent to 10 per cent. This will encourage owners to bring empty shops back into use.
Even after reform, the relief on offer for empty commercial properties in Scotland will remain significantly more generous than in England. Overall, Scotland continues to provide the UK’s most generous business rates relief package, which offers tax breaks worth well over £500m annually to Scottish businesses.
Mr Brown said:
“Long term empty homes are a blight on communities. They often fall into disrepair, and become a focus for antisocial behaviour like vandalism or fly tipping.
“We will not simply stand by and let this continue to happen. That is why we have introduced an Unoccupied Properties Bill that will allow councils to increase council tax on certain empty homes. That should be a strong incentive for owners who are simply ignoring empty homes to either sell or let the property to someone who needs it, or bring it back into use themselves.
“The Loan Fund will add to our concerted action on tackling empty homes. It will give innovative schemes the extra funding boost needed to take radical action to get empty homes back into use.
“Both these measures will also stimulate sustainable economic growth by supporting jobs where properties need renovation work.”
Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said:
“The Scottish Government wants to see thriving town centres across the country. Our plans to reform empty property relief will introduce incentives to reduce the numbers of empty shops that hold back the development of our high streets.
“Even after reform, the relief on offer for empty commercial properties in Scotland will remain significantly more generous in Scotland than in England.”
Kristen Hubert, Coordinator of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland, said:
“This £2million loan fund and new powers for councils are great news and a step in the right direction for tackling Scotland’s private sector empty homes.
“We would also like to see councils who choose to charge a council tax levy on long-term empty homes recycle some of that money back into empty homes work. This would provide the help and incentives that homeowners need to bring their properties back into use.
“Bringing empty homes back into use requires both the carrot and the stick approach and this bill, along with the £2 million loan fund, will enable councils to use both.”
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