Call for extra funding to boost affordable housing

Housing at Ulva Ferry, Mull has brought two new families into the community.

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Community Land Scotland (CLS) is calling for access to safe and warm housing at prices local people can afford states a new report.

The charity, which represents current and aspiring community landowners is encouraging people, in particular young families, to return to their local areas and are hoping that the extension of Scottish Government’s Rural and Islands Housing Fund (RIHF) will help them do this.

‘For too long people have been leaving villages and small towns across rural Scotland, because they could not find a house they could afford to live in, or were repeatedly evicted,’ says Ailsa Raeburn, chairperson of CLS.

‘In the fight against such depopulation, communities the length and breadth of rural Scotland have been coming together to build and manage their own affordable housing.’

The homes are low cost and highly energy efficient which means low heating bills.

Home Delivery – Community Led Housing in Rural Scotland, charts the success of the many rural communities who have bought land and raised the funds to build the required affordable housing over the last five years of the RIHF. CLS has welcomed the news that the fund will continue beyond March 2021 when its current version is due to end.

‘This type of development is always about more than numbers – whether the size of the community or the number of houses built,’ continued Ms Raeburn.

‘We have seen time and again that a very small number of houses can make a huge difference to our most economically fragile rural communities. Community housing is an integral part of empowering communities and that is fundamentally about ensuring that land and other assets are owned and used in the public interest and for the common good.’

Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart said: ‘It has been inspiring to read more stories of rural communities coming together to build affordable, energy-efficient homes that offer tenants and owners long-term housing security.

‘Many have had the support of the £30 million Rural and Islands Housing Funds. This is part of our record investment of more than £3.5 billion over this parliamentary term that funds our Affordable Housing Supply Programme, which has delivered around 4,800 affordable homes in these communities over the past four years.’

The development of two houses at Ulva Ferry on Mull brought two young families to that community, four working-age residents and six children to the local school. The school stayed open and, equally importantly, the community was given the confidence to go on and build four more affordable houses which are now under construction and being advertised to let.

In total 205 new homes listed in the report from all across Scotland showcase a range of community-led developments all supported by the RIHF. They include many completed homes, a health centre and business units in Staffin in Skye.

A further 200 houses are now in the pipeline in some of the most remote and fragile communities in Scotland.

Hugh Ross is from the Staffin Community Trust at Trotternish on Skye. The island with a population of 10,000 has particular pressure on its housing stock. Research for the Scottish Government last year found that almost 20 per cent of all dwellings on Skye were available for holidays through Airbnb.

Hugh says: ‘Some 23 townships make up the district of Staffin. You could argue the loss of 40 people amounted to the one whole township leaving.

‘We refused to sleepwalk into becoming a retirement village dominated by holiday accommodation.

‘Our project would have not happened without the Rural and Islands Housing Fund. It is a project that is vital to Staffin as we haven’t had affordable houses here for 21 years. This development will see seven families secure homes, bolster our schools roll, provide a modern heath centre and new business opportunities in Skye and Lochalsh’s most economically fragile community.

‘The sound of children playing in the gardens will be a very welcome noise – that of a community with a bright future.’

Dr Calum Macleod, policy director Community Land Scotland concluded: ‘It’s clear from the case studies in the report that the initial affordable housing proposals often act as a catalyst for wider community regeneration.

‘It is therefore essential that the Rural Islands and Housing Fund is retained after next Scottish Parliament election in May 2021.’