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15 November 2016, 05:25
Owners of Scotland's 34,000 long-term empty homes are losing out on more than £250 million each year, a housing body has claimed.
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which brings homes back into use, says owners are losing out on an average of £7,500 each annually, a total of £255 million.
Losses have been calculated from a combination of rent that could have been charged and council tax, insurance and security bills that still have to be paid on empty buildings.
Local economies and shops are also said to be missing out on almost £500 million because the homes lie empty with no money being spent in their area.
Each household, on average, contributes £13,000 to their neighbourhood, which the housing body says could be creating and sustaining livelihoods.
Run by charity Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, SEHP chiefs say home owners are not making the most of their assets at a time when affordable homes are badly needed.
National manager Kristen Hubert said: "It doesn't make sense for people to leave a property sitting empty when it could be bringing in money for them and providing a home for someone who needs one.
"I hope these figures encourage people with an empty property to get in touch with us or an empty homes officer at their local council to get advice on how to bring it back into use.
"There is a lot of help available to make it possible for people to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of moving back into a property, letting it out or selling it.''
The organisation has helped bring more than 2,066 homes back into use since it was founded in 2010.
"To date, 22 councils have set themselves targets for bringing private empty homes back into use.
Local government and housing minister Kevin Stewart said empty homes were a blight on urban and rural communities.
He added: "The Scottish Government has provided dedicated funding to tackle empty homes, including the £4.5 million empty homes loan fund and the £4 million town centre empty homes fund.
"The new £25 million rural housing fund and £5 million islands housing fund were launched this year and we are seeing significant interest from empty homes projects across rural Scotland.
"To add to this range of tools available to tackle this issue, we are committed to bringing forward provisions for compulsory sales orders as part of the ongoing programme of land reform measures.''