Long-term Empty Homes (Enforcement Powers)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 February 2024.

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Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

6. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to strengthen enforcement powers in relation to long-term empty homes. (S6F-02798)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Tackling empty homes is a priority. We want to see more homes being returned to productive use as warm, safe and secure housing. That is why we continue to fund the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which since 2010 has helped to bring more than 9,000 homes back into use. We have recently given councils the power to increase council tax on second homes by up to 100 per cent. We have also consulted on proposals for primary legislation to give councils powers to raise council tax above 100 per cent for long-term empty homes. Where we need to rely on enforcement, local authorities have broad compulsory purchase powers that can be, and are being, used to bring empty homes back into use.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

More action on empty homes is a commitment in the shared policy programme between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government. Therefore, the proposal to allow councils further powers to increase council tax on long-term empty properties is important, as is effective use of enforcement powers. Last week, in Glasgow, a backstop was evidenced, with the news that three properties are to be acquired through compulsory purchase for use by housing associations. Does the First Minister recognise the need for reform of the compulsory purchase order system to make it more workable? Does he agree with the recommendations of the independent audit of the Scottish Government’s long-term empty homes policy that it should also consider the merits of enforced sales and rental orders?

The First Minister:

I welcome the news of Glasgow City Council’s use of compulsory purchase order powers. I agree that consideration of how we might reform and modernise the CPO process is vital, which is why we committed to progressing the matter in our programme for government. I am pleased to say that we will shortly establish an expert advisory group to inform us on the development of options.

We have also committed to continuing to consider the case for introducing compulsory sales orders. The expert group will consider the extent to which CPO reform could achieve the same aims. The same considerations would also apply to compulsory leasing.

Most long-term empty homes are returned to use through proactive work with the owner to identify barriers and ways to overcome them. We will continue to support that work, alongside ensuring that taxation and enforcement tools to incentivise the reuse of such homes are available.

The Presiding Officer:

We move to constituency and general supplementaries.