Wightman report shows taxing derelict land can tackle housing crisis

A new report by Andy Wightman MSP, Housing and Land Reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, shows that giving local councils the power to tax the 20,000 football pitches' worth of vacant and derelict land in Scotland could generate £200million a year to build affordable homes and tackle the housing crisis.

It follows attempts by the Green MSPs in January 2016 to amend the Land Reform Bill so that the near 13,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land in communities across Scotland would be brought into the non-domestic rates system.

This was rejected by the Scottish Government who at the time said they would consult on the proposal but have not yet done so.

Today's report shows that of those 13,000 hectares, almost 9,000 are classed as developable, and could bring in £200million a year for public services such as housing.

There are almost 4,000 derelict sites in Scotland, including 782 in Glasgow, 487 in North Lanarkshire, 281 in North Ayrshire, 235 in South Lanarkshire and 223 in Fife.

In Edinburgh, where house prices are the highest of any Scottish city, there are 76 derelict sites with a further 157 throughout East, West and Midlothian.

Ireland recently created a Vacant Site Levy, with local councils due to levy charges next year.

Andy Wightman, Housing and Land Reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

"Over half of Scotland's most deprived communities are within 500 metres of vacant and derelict land so there is huge potential to develop and regenerate where it is most needed, and ease the pressure to build on green spaces valued by communities. The Scottish Government, in rejecting bolder Land Reform legislation last year, promised to consult on the taxation of derelict and vacant land and I hope this paper brings that forward.

"Given the lack of affordable housing and continuing financial pressures on public services, it's unacceptable that landowners can profit from withholding land suitable for housing. There is growing political consensus in Scotland that we need big changes to tackle the housing crisis, so let's not be timid when it comes to giving local councils the power to tax vacant and derelict land."