Council aims to cut home waiting list from 700 to zero in five years

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There’s only one affordable home for every five applicants that want one in Oban, Lorn and the Isles.

The average was revealed as Argyll and Bute Council begins its ambitious five- year housing plan to cut a waiting list of 737 people down to zero.

Oban, Lorn and the Isles (OLI), one of Argyll and Bute’s four administrative areas, also has just over 792 second homes, just over a quarter of the region’s total, local councillors heard at Wednesday’s area committee.

Councillor Roddy McCuish, chairman of Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA), said: ‘With a waiting list of some 737, the highest in Argyll and Bute, I don’t think we are meeting the demands.’

He said ACHA are ‘seeing the pressure ratio of five to one, and that really means, in layman’s terms, for every house they let, there are four they can’t because they just don’t have the houses.’

Argyll and Bute Council produces a Local Housing Strategy (LHS) every five years. The previous LHS was completed in 2021, and the next one, approved by councillors in November last year, launches this month.

Douglas Whyte, the council’s team lead for housing strategy, read out its vision to the area committee, that ‘everyone in Argyll and Bute has access to a suitable, high quality home which is affordable and located within a vibrant, sustainable and connected community’.

‘That is an ambitious vision,’ Mr Whyte said, ‘but that’s what visions are meant to be, and we will work with partners to try and deliver that over the next five years.’

To demonstrate the housing need in the OLI area, Mr Whyte produced a table showing the number of applicants compared to the number of housing association lets in the area.

On Mull and Iona, there were three times more applicants than available lets, at 61 to 24. In Lorn, there were six times more: 533 to 94. On Coll and Tiree, there were 16 times more, with a ‘pressure ratio’ of 16 to one.

‘The overall total is five to one,’ he added, ‘so that just highlights the continuing pressures on housing in this area.’

On the number of homeless cases, Mr Whyte explained there were ’55 households in the OLI area that the council has taken on as statutory homeless, and they are waiting for permanent housing. So that just gives you an idea of the pressures we are under.’

On the delivery of affordable housing, the report continues: ‘The Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) delivered 22 new affordable homes in OLI in 2020/21, including 10 in Barcaldine (six for social rent and four for shared equity) and the final 12 units at the Glenshellach site in Oban. Total investment in completed OLI projects in 2020/21 amounted to £1.442m.

‘Cumulatively over the full five years of the 2016-2021 LHS, which is now completed, there have been 178 new affordable homes built in OLI amounting to 39 per cent of the five-year total for Argyll and Bute.’

Completions in 2021/22 include four West Highland Housing Association (WHHA) units in Kirk Road, Dunbeg, which were finished in April 2021, 57 Link housing association units in Dunbeg in December 2021, with 243 Link units in Dunbeg expected to be completed in 2022.

Mull and Iona Community Trust also acquired Pennyghael Schoolhouse in the south of Mull in 2021 to provide an affordable family home.

Further projects include Link’s ‘Hospital Site’ in Oban (50 units – subject to further feasibility), its Lonan Drive site in Oban (44 units by 2024), its Glencruitten site in Oban (100 units by 2026 subject to agreement), and later phases at its Dunbeg site (150 units by 2025).

WHHA will deliver 12 units at its site in Tobermory, plus another six in Port Appin. ACHA is analysing sites in Craignure, Salen, Dervaig, Appin and Connel, and renovating six houses on Ulva.