Empty tenement flat with boarded up windows

Claim around 100,000 homes are empty in Scotland is Mostly True

Claim around 100,000 homes are empty in Scotland is Mostly True 5

The Scottish Government has announced a housing emergency, amid rising costs and a lack of homes across the country. 

Ministers declared an emergency after pressure from Scottish Labour, which tabled a motion on Wednesday. 

Writing about Scotland’s housing crisis in a column in the Greenock Telegraph on Sunday, Labour MSP Katy Clark repeated a claim about the number of empty homes in Scotland. 

Around 100,000 properties in Scotland are sitting empty at any time. 

Katy Clark, Scottish Labour MSP

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Mostly True.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

Evidence

The number of homes available for Scots has been a recurring issue in recent years, and campaigners have regularly argued that using houses lying empty could help to mitigate housing supply issues. 

Katy Clark has repeatedly claimed on social media there are 100,000 properties empty in Scotland, and also in an article for the Greenock Telegraph, a newspaper in the West Scotland region where she was elected as a list MSP. 

A similar claim was prominently featured in a series of articles in the Daily Record, published in 2022. 

The most recent data for the claim was produced by the National Records of Scotland in a report released in 2023. 

It states that in 2022, there were 2.7 million dwellings in Scotland. A dwelling is defined as accommodation that people can live in, as opposed to commercial or public sector use. 

The statistics show 115,000 of these dwellings were unoccupied, which is 4.3 per cent. 

This is made up of 90,700 vacant properties (3.4 per cent) and 24,300 second homes (0.9 per cent). 

However, not all vacant properties are considered to be long-term empty. About half of these (46,100) have what’s known as an unoccupied exemption. This means they are unoccupied and unfurnished, and their owners do not have to pay council tax on them. 

There can be numerous reasons for a property having an exemption, such as new homes which have yet to be lived in, those which are uninhabitable during repairs, old houses or flats that are awaiting demolition. They can also stay unoccupied for a long period of time, such as when a homeowner is in long-term care, or the property has been repossessed but not yet sold on. 

There were 44,600 long-term empty properties in Scotland which are eligible for council tax, meaning they are in a habitable state and are sitting empty. More than 27,000 of these had been empty for more than 12 months.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

Katy Clark’s claim that 100,000 properties in Scotland are sitting empty is a slight undercount. based on the latest housing statistics there were 115,000 empty homes in Scotland in 2022. However, it may not be possible to bring all of these back into use quickly. Around 24 per cent are second homes, while 46 per cent are considered exempt from council tax because they are either not considered habitable, are new builds which are yet to be occupied, are due to be knocked down, or sold on.

Mostly True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

Photo credit: iStock/richard johnson

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