SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s intention to allow councils to charge up to 100% council tax for second homes under legislation aiming to increase the availability of housing.
If approved by Parliament, this secondary legislation would bring second homes into line with long-term empty homes. While councils already have flexibility to vary council tax charges for second homes, from between a 50% discount rate up to the full rate, the new legislation would allow them to charge higher council tax for second homes than for main residences.
This afternoon, a debate was held in the Scottish Parliament on the licencing scheme Speaking during the debate, Alasdair Allan noted the local economic benefits which can come from tourism through short-term lets, but said that he did not think it was a coincidence that, as the number of short-term lets across the Western Isles has doubled, the availability of private rental properties has dropped by a third.
He went on to say:
“In those areas where housing is being taken out of the domestic stock at a faster rate than it could ever conceivably be replaced, some perspective is needed. How do the undoubted benefits of a short term let property compare, say, with the benefits brought by a family living in that house 365 days a year and contributing to that community? How do they compare with the benefits brought by a local school having enough pupils to stay open, or a community having a sufficient population of working age to provide carers for the elderly? Or enough people for a lifeboat crew? Or enough staff for new businesses?”
“Any hope we have in staving off a demographic crisis in some communities in the Western Isles lies in attracting people to live and work there. That cannot happen if people cannot find any house to rent, or if they are continually and massively outgunned in the housing market by people of means who already have a house.”
Alasdair’s speech can be viewed in full here.