Scotland is facing a housing crisis. Too many people pay far too much for their homes and the cost of renting keeps going up. Yet wealthy developers are holding on to derelict land that could be used to build thousands of new homes.
Scottish Greens have proposed an amendment to the Land Reform Bill to tax derelict land and incentivise house building. Here’s why…
Last year private rents in Scotland rose by 12% - faster than any other part of the UK. Much of the increase in price is due to a shortage of available properties which means that competition between tenants is higher and landlords can charge more. And we know that as mortgages have become harder to come by, more people are renting. In fact the proportion of the Scottish population living in private rented homes has shot up in the last decade from 11% to 29%. At the same time, the proportion of private tenants living in poverty has also increased.
Beyond the numbers, there are thousands of human stories of folk who can’t afford to heat their homes or even to feed themselves and their families because of the high cost of housing. In 2016, that is a shameful state of affairs and one which our Government must act upon as a matter of urgency.
So what needs to change? Well first, we have to address the housing shortage and to do that, we need to look at how we use and own land in this country. Many people might look at land reform and think it’s all about grouse moors and wealthy tweed-clad gents. But the question of who owns Scotland and what they choose to do with the land they own directly affects us all.
Owners of derelict land are currently exempt from paying tax on it. That means they can hold on to it for years without paying a penny, while elsewhere, the cost of land keeps going up, pushing house prices and rents ever higher.
Scottish Greens want to get the best use out of land, including the 11,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land, sitting unused in Scotland today. That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to tax owners of derelict land and use the taxes raised to build the extra housing that Scotland desperately needs.
On Wednesday, the Scottish Parliament will be scrutinizing the Land Reform Bill at its second stage. The Green MSPs will be submitting an amendment to the Bill, that would bring derelict and vacant land into the Valuation Roll. We want to let the Scottish Parliament know that there is public support for this amendment. Please sign the petition here and take the first steps towards cutting the cost of housing.
Sarah Beattie-Smith is Infrastructure & Investment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP candidate for South of Scotland