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The Scottish Labour Party is proposing the introduction of a 200 per cent council tax levy on empty properties across Scotland, which they claim would be a considerable step in tackling the housing shortage crisis.
Current legislation entitles property owners of vacant homes to pay a lower council tax rate of 90 per cent. But Labour is proposing that owners should not be entitled to the deduction and in fact should be liable to pay a hefty 200 percent rate, which should incentivise some to rent or sell.
Recent figures reveal a 64 per cent increase of private disused properties from 2007 to 2011 and there are about 25,000 long-term empty homes across Scotland.
In 2010 the Scottish Government launched the Empty Homes Initiative Scotland, which is co-ordinated by housing charity Shelter Scotland and has reported modest successes.
However, Labour claim an increased tax could free up a large proportion of housing and provide shelter for thousands listed as homeless and awaiting suitable accommodation.
Maureen Child, Labour’s health and social care spokeswoman, insisted that the Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition has so far failed to take housing shortages seriously enough.
She said: “We should look at any prospect there is to encourage people to bring their property back to the market. This suggestion is a signal we’re taking this seriously. The view of the administration that this is a small problem is not realistic.”
The proposal was first raised by Green councilor, Maggie Chapman, in a failed motion to the last housing committee. Backed by Labour, it would have included a database mapping all empty homes to better determine the problem areas.
Shelter Scotland is also backing the proposition in addition to current schemes to free up empty housing.
Director Graeme Brown said a “package of carrots and sticks” was needed which would give an incitement to bring homes back into use because of the substantial financial penalty for properties that go unused for a long time.
If the suggestions are carried out, the additional revenue raised could also be used to increase the provision of affordable housing in the form of new builds and mortgage schemes.