0:01 AM, 22nd February 2023, About A year ago 1
A promise to sell homes that have been empty for a long time for just £1 by Scottish Labour has been slammed as a politically led housing gimmick by a leading property firm.
DJ Alexander Ltd, Scotland’s largest lettings and estate agency, said that the announcement by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar at the party’s conference last weekend was just another headline grabbing statement aimed at gaining short term publicity without addressing the real underlying issues in the housing sector.
Mr Sarwar said his party would offer to sell an estimated 27,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland for £1 each and provide Government-backed loans to renovate the properties.
Under the plan, councils would identify and compulsorily purchase properties designated as long-term vacant, currently defined as being empty for 18 months, with the average property costing £12,500.
To force owners to sell, Labour would run a ‘council tax accelerator’ which would push up the bills for vacant properties.
After 12 months of being empty, each property’s council tax bill would be twice the normal rate, then triple in the following year – before rising to a maximum of 500% of the standard bill.
The aim would be to encourage owners to sell or rent their homes to increase housing supply.
David Alexander, the chief executive officer of DJ Alexander, said: “This is an example of another shiny housing bauble placed before the electorate and designed to produce headlines and attract voters without addressing any of the underlying issues in the housing market.
“With so little detail it is hard to know what to make of these ideas but clearly this offers more questions than answers.
“Does this plan apply to both the private and social sectors, and what is the process for identifying a long-term empty home?”
He added: “What kind of homes in Scotland are only worth £12,500 even under a compulsory purchase order and what checks are in place to ensure that these homes are actually abandoned or have simply been left dormant for a variety of legitimate reasons?”
He continued: “While some long-term empty houses may be easily identifiable if they are run-down, neglected and an obvious eyesore in the community, many may be empty for perfectly legitimate reasons.
“There is also the decision as to who should be given a home for £1.
“For every person that benefits there will be hundreds who don’t so the selection criteria must be beyond reproach.
“The offer of government-backed loans to help the purchasers bring the properties up to standard also poses problems.
“If there is money to upgrade and renovate these properties it would be cheaper, and achieve better standards, if this work was undertaken nationally.”
He concluded: “While this idea sounds like it should be a vote winner it is simply the latest in a long line of headline grabbing gimmicks.
“This will not resolve the current housing needs, it will not provide homes for those who need it, and it sounds like a way of renovating properties on the cheap, shifting the liability for these homes to the owners without providing sufficient funding to develop quality renovations.
“Until we get a government with a coherent housing plan, I fear we will lurch from one ill-conceived gimmick to the next none of which satisfies nor fulfils the current, or future, housing needs of Scots and where there is always the risk of making things worse.”
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