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Calls for compulsory sales orders to reduce empty homes

MSPs said more needs to be done to tackle what is described as a 'blight' on communities.

Homes: Calls for compulsory sales orders to reduce empty homes.
Homes: Calls for compulsory sales orders to reduce empty homes. Diana Parkhouse | CC | https://flic.kr/p/8rf5NG

A Holyrood committee has urged the Scottish Government to introduce compulsory sales orders (CSOs) in a bid to reduce the number of empty homes.

The Local Government and Communities Committee said more needs to be done to tackle the issue, which has been described as a "blight" on communities.

The committee visited Kilmarnock and Newmilns in East Ayrshire as part of their inquiry.

In its report, the committee said the SNP included the introduction of CSOs in its manifesto in 2016, however the Government has not brought proposals for the measures forward to Parliament.

CSOs would compel the owners of vacant properties to sell them on, in a bid to bring them back into use.

The report comes as data from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) shows 101 vacant properties are being brought back into use each month.

'Empty homes are a blight upon communities across Scotland and represent a wasted resource at a time when housing supply is limited.'
James Dornan, Committee convener

Committee convener James Dornan said: "Empty homes are a blight upon communities across Scotland and represent a wasted resource at a time when housing supply is limited.

"The evidence we have gathered makes it clear there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.

"The low take-up of compulsory purchase orders is something we'd like to see reviewed, while we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has not introduced compulsory sales orders which could empower local government to solve empty homes problems in their areas."

Despite the views of the committee, SEHP national manager Shaheena Din said the problem is improving.

SEHP research has shown more than 5,000 homes have come back into use since 2010, including 1,821 over the past 18 months.

She said: "Scotland is turning a corner on empty homes. We had our best ever year last year and in the past six months, we've seen that improvement accelerate to a point where we're seeing 101 vacant properties become homes once again each month.

'The work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is helping end the blight of empty houses in communities across Scotland at a time when we need more homes.'
Kevin Stewart, Housing Minister

"This is a fantastic achievement and down to councils committing to the issue and supporting staff to deliver these results.

"In total we've now seen 5,037 homes brought back into use since the launch of the partnership in 2010.

"Almost all of these success stories are down to the intervention of empty homes officers working in councils and able to offer owners and others advice and support to resolve problems that have led to properties becoming stuck empty."

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: "The work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is helping end the blight of empty houses in communities across Scotland at a time when we need more homes.

"We have supported the work of the partnership since 2010, and I'm pleased to see their record-breaking success increase year on year, now with over 5,000 privately-owned homes brought back into use."

In its report, the committee said it would like to see empty housing officers employed in every local authority in Scotland.

Mr Stewart said: "We want to see this work continue with dedicated empty homes officers in every local authority in Scotland, and I encourage every council to make that happen and bring these benefits to their communities."

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