Councils are to be given powers to enact huge tax increases on second homes and empty properties, the Scottish Government proposes.
New First Minister Humza Yousaf made the announcement at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, launching a formal consultation which would give councils powers to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes from April 2024.
The proposed change would bring second homes into line with long-term empty homes from next year. The consultation will also seek views on further powers to charge more than double rate on both empty and second homes in future years.
Latest figures show that in January 2023 there were 42,865 long-term empty homes in Scotland.
The consultation will also ask for views on whether there should be changes to the definition of when a property offering self-catered accommodation becomes liable for non-domestic rates.
Currently, a default 50 per cent council tax discount is applied to second and empty homes with councils then able to reduce the discount available. A 100 per cent premium (double the full rate) can be applied to homes that have been empty for more than 12 months.
At the moment, a property is considered self-catered accommodation and therefore liable for non-domestic rates if it is let for a total of 70 nights and is available to let for 140 nights in a financial year.
The plans are part of a deal between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party.
Yousaf says: “We want everyone in Scotland to have an affordable home that meets their needs and this work to improve the availability of sustainable long-term housing opportunities is a core part of that.
“By recognising the important role councils have in considering local needs, these proposals aim to strike a balance between good housing supply and helping communities to thrive and benefit from tourism.
“I encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation as we try to prioritise homes for living in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone and recognising the benefits to local economies from self-catering accommodation and second homes.
“All responses will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced to the Scottish Parliament.”
A spokesperson for the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities says: “Local government in Scotland is committed to supporting access for everyone in Scotland to an affordable home.
“That is why we are pleased to be launching this joint consultation, as we work to meet the shared aim of creating the right balance to increase the availability of housing and a taxation system that is fair for the tourism industry.
“We also welcome the greater fiscal empowerment for councils to reflect local circumstances this would introduce. Any additional funding created by these changes under consultation will enable councils to invest in local needs and support sustainable communities.
“We are pleased to be jointly working with the Scottish Government on this vital area of work and we look forward to considering the responses.”
The consultation runs until July 11 and can be found on the Scottish Government’s consultation page.
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