Council pay £254k to build five affordable homes on Colonsay

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Argyll and Bute Council will spend £254,000 to plug a funding gap to build five new affordable homes at Port Mor on Colonsay.

West Highland Housing Association has obtained permission for the five houses, on land south west of Baile Iochdrach, Lower Kilchattan.

A report before the full council meeting on Thursday November 25, said: ‘A level of funding had been proposed by the Scottish Government, but there was still a funding gap.’

It recommended councillors ‘authorise a payment to West Highland Housing Association of £168,999 from the Strategic Housing Fund to enable the development’. But the council agreed to spend almost £100,000 more.

A spokesperson said: ‘The project will also involve infrastructure upgrades, including an improved access road to three existing crofts at Port Mor, and will enable Colonsay Community Development Company potential to provide mains water to the crofts.’

Councillors have agreed that £254,000 from the Strategic Housing Fund should be allocated to build five affordable houses at Port Mor on the west of Colonsay.

Council leader Councillor Robin Currie said: ‘There is a clear need and demand for housing on Colonsay, and it has been a longstanding priority of the council to improve the availability of affordable homes on the island and to support improvements to the local infrastructure.’

The council said it recognised Colonsay as ‘a fragile area for a variety of reasons, including declining population, lack of economic opportunities and below average income levels.’

The report explained: ‘There are around 100 homes on the island, of which 30 per cent are deemed ineffective in terms of meeting local needs, ie as at April 2021, 28 are second/holiday homes, and a further three are empty/long-term unoccupied.

‘Affordability on the open market remains a significant issue for island residents. Between 2016 and 2021 there were only seven verified sales on Colonsay and the average achieved house price over that period was £237,000 which would require a household income of £59,250 to be considered affordable.

‘Around two thirds of local households could not afford to purchase on the open market and therefore require alternative affordable options such as social rent and shared equity.

‘Argyll Community Housing Association and West Highland Housing Association currently provide 10 properties for social rent, which amounts to only 10 per cent of the total dwelling stock or 14 per cent of the occupied stock. This is well below national levels.

‘Currently there are 16 active applicants with Colonsay as first or second area of preference. Eight of these applicants are local to the island. One applicant is homeless or threatened with homelessness.

‘The average waiting time for active applicants is 98 weeks and generally turnover in the Registered Social Landlord stock has been nil in recent years.

‘Colonsay Community Development Company has secured land at Scalasaig for the delivery of affordable housing. It has worked with the council and the Communities Housing Trust to obtain planning permission for the delivery of six affordable houses for rent and three further Houses of Multiple Occupation for exclusive use of MOWI which operates a salmon farm off the coast of Colonsay. Work has started on site.

‘If the housing for affordable rent with planning permission is all delivered on the island – Port Mor and Scalasaig – it will address the need of 11 of the 16 applicants with Colonsay as their first area of choice.’

NO_T49_Site of five new houses at Port Mor on Colonsay_01

Councillors have agreed that £254,000 from the Strategic Housing Fund should be allocated to build five affordable houses at Port Mor on the west of Colonsay.