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Mull is planning a carefully worded plea to second-home and cottage owners to consider converting their properties to long-term rentals.
A motion supporting an appeal to property owners to help ease the island’s housing crisis, was passed at last week’s community council via Zoom.
It was also decided to set up a working group to draw up a list of solutions that would help alleviate the housing problem and make building more affordable homes on the island easier – some construction conditions date back to the days of the former Strathclyde Council.
The solution list could eventually go before Argyll and Bute Council and possibly the Scottish Government as Mull’s situation was probably being felt in other places along the West Coast, the meeting heard.
Building homes on Mull can be 22 per cent more expensive than on the mainland. The island also has the fourth largest number of holiday homes in Scotland – the figure is understood to be at almost 1,500.
Those struggling to find places to live include young islanders wanting to stay to bring up their children, seasonal workers looking for a temporary roof and key workers including doctors, nurses and teachers.
The idea of a direct appeal to second-homers and holiday property owners divided the meeting, raising concerns it could be seen as being ‘divisive’ or make self-catering out to be ‘a bad thing’, but community councillor convener Tom Nelson said that was not the case.
He said there was no need for anyone to feel uncomfortable about being asked. ‘There’s no pressure,’ he said.
‘Self-catering is critical to the economy. This would merely be a suggestion and get people thinking about making the conversion to long-term let,’ he added, saying the idea might appeal to someone ‘sitting on the fence’ who do not want the hassle anymore of running a self-catering business or who do not necessarily need the cash.
‘They might like doing something more that’s beneficial to the local community. It would put the idea out there and at least stimulate the debate and discussion, make people think,’ he said.
Councillor Mary-Jean Devon told the meeting the community council needed to be very clear to identify the actual need and who these long-term lets would be intended for.
Builds in the future include a potential 60 from island developer Calum MacLachlainn, 12 housing association homes in Tobermory and eight coming in Salen.
‘Work is ongoing to provide more housing on Mull. It’s not as if the community council has suddenly woken up the issue,’ said Councillor Devon speaking to The Oban Times after the meeting.
This May, four years after starting a new affordable homes project in Ulva Ferry, Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) handed over the keys to the new residents.
It took years of fundraising and feasibility work to buy the land and pay for the
£1.3 million project which resulted in the four much-needed homes being built.
More than 30 applications to live in them were received and a locally agreed, points based allocation policy was used to choose the successful families.