Refocus needed on providing homes for Argyll’s young people

ACHA Chief Executive Alastair MacGregor assessing housing sites on Ulva with his successor Michelle Mundie and ACHA’s chairman Roddy McCuish.

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Retired ACHA boss Alastair MacGregor has called for a re-focus on providing homes for young people struggling to get a first foot on the housing ladder.

Mr MacGregor’s parting shot, after 18 years as chief executive of Argyll Community Housing Association, warns unless action is taken the region will continue to ‘haemorrhage’ its young to bigger towns and cities which will be a major problem.

He wants to see the area’s housing challenges fully recognised and taken as top priority by the government in Edinburgh and the local authority.

‘It’s easy for me to say there’s always a housing crisis but it has got worse in the last two years with Covid.

‘Unless young people can call on the bank of mum and dad or have a bequest, getting their first foot on the housing ladder is very difficult.

‘Demand has increased on housing associations. Another outcome of Covid is that more people are moving out of urban Scotland because they can work from home, that’s putting an added pressure on Oban. There’s also the increase in Airbnb.

‘Opportunities for our young to get a house here have vastly diminished. There needs to be a re-focus on making housing for them available.

‘My hope is that building homes for our young people will be driven forward, otherwise Argyll and Bute will continue to haemorrhage young people and this will be a major problem,’ he said.

Mr MacGregor led the housing stock transfer, about 5,100 homes, to ACHA from Argyll and Bute Council between 2004 and 2006.

The move got the highest ‘yes’ vote from tenants to transfer from a local authority to a new housing association, with 87 per cent in favour of it and a 70 per cent turnout.

He has also seen 470 new homes built in his time at ACHA, including in smaller communities like Kilmartin, Bonawe and on Coll.

There are also plans to build 20 more on Mull and last week he visited Ulva where five new homes are in the offing as well as four more in Dervaig.

The biggest achievement he has overseen has been the internal modernisation of ACHA properties.

Between July 2007 and the end of March this year, the investment stood at just over £244 million fitting the likes of new kitchens, bathrooms and windows. Work is now ongoing to make external improvements to homes.

‘ACHA’s tenants are the most fantastic people. They have been a great support of our work. Working with them and with ACHA staff has been the greatest pleasure of my life; that’s how I feel,’ Mr MacGregor added.

Out of his 37 years working in the housing sector, 32 of them have been as a chief executive.

He spent 15 years at Queens Cross Housing Association in Maryhill, Glasgow before taking the lead of the ACHA group, which includes Argyll Community Housing Association and its maintenance subsidiary Argyll Homes for All.

His first interest in housing emerged when he led a rent strike at Glasgow University in 1981 in protest at high rents, poor housing conditions and a lack of affordable housing for students.

That experience, along with his work in support groups during the miners’ strike in 1984, convinced him to enter a career in housing.

Under the direction of Dave Alexander he completed the Diploma in Housing Administration at Stirling University.

That led to his first post in housing as a Development Officer in Linthouse, Glasgow.

During his time in housing he was also a board member of the Glasgow Housing Association, Blochairn Housing Association, Sandyford Housing Association and Oban Housing Association.

He was also the vice chair of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and served as the Scottish representative on CECODHAS, the European Federation of Housing Associations.

Alastair also served as an Office Bearer of the Rural and Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF).

As for Mr MacGregor’s future, he plans to work more on his croft in the better weather as well as working in the winter months to provide any assistance needed by not-for-profit housing organisations.

Caption: ACHA Chief Executive Alastair MacGregor assessing housing sites on Ulva with his successor Michelle Mundie and ACHA’s chairman Roddy McCuish.