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Long-term empty homes in Scotland up 5.5% in a year

Overall, National Records of Scotland statistics show 96% of houses in Scotland are occupied, 1% are second homes and 3% are empty.

The number of empty homes has increased by 2,000, figures show (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The number of empty homes has increased by 2,000, figures show (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The number of long-term empty homes has risen 5.5% in a year, new figures suggest.

National Records of Scotland statistics show 39,300 homes were empty for six months or more in 2018, an increase of 2,000 on 2017.

The number of second homes has fallen in the same period, down 2.8% to 25,000.

The islands have the highest proportions of long-term empty homes, at 4.7% in the Shetland Islands and 3.4% in the Western Isles compared to 1.5% across Scotland.

Argyll and Bute has the largest proportion of second homes, at 6.7%.

Overall, the statistics show 96% of homes in Scotland are occupied, 1% are second homes and 3% are empty.

The report states: “There were 2.62 million dwellings in Scotland in 2018.

“Empty and second homes were not spread evenly across the country.

“Remote rural areas had the highest percentage of dwellings that were vacant or second homes.”

The number of households across Scotland has continued to rise, hitting 2.48 million in 2018, an increase of around 139,000 (6%) in a decade.

Every council area has recorded an increase in this time, with the largest being a 16% rise in Midlothian and the smallest a 1.2% increase in Inverclyde.

Officials credit the growth to an increasing population and rising number of homes combined with a drop in the average number of people per household.

This average household size has fallen from 2.18 people per household in 2008 to 2.15 in 2018.

Homes with only one resident have been the most common type since 2010 and now account for more than a third of households, with an estimated 885,000 people living alone in 2017, which researchers said could be partly explained by Scotland’s ageing population.

Andy Wightman, housing spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “People are crying out for affordable housing, yet we have a total of over 100,000 empty and under-used second homes across Scotland.

“It’s incredulous that the proportion of empty homes is rising and astonishing that not all councils have empty homes officers to bring properties into use.”

He repeated calls for Scottish Government to work with local authorities to tackle the issue, saying it is “clearly exacerbating Scotland’s housing crisis”.

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