A vital housing fund that has helped fragile communities fight depopulation and the rise of holiday homes is being extended.
More than 200 affordable homes have been built or planned in community-owned areas over the last five years with the help of the £30 million Rural and Islands Housing Fund, with a similar number in the pipeline.
Community Land Scotland (CLS), which represents community landowners, had called for the fund to continue beyond March 2021 when its current version is due to end, as it published a report on housing projects yesterday.
‘Home Delivery, Community Led Housing in Rural Scotland’, charts the success of rural communities who have built affordable accommodation to retain or bring back residents.
Last night Kevin Stewart, minister for local government, housing and planning, said the fund would continue beyond March as part of a five-year affordable house programme.
He told a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the need for more affordable housing in areas facing growing demand from cash-rich buyers that it is part of the government’s commitment to rural and island housing.
The funds are part of the wider Affordable Housing Supply Programme, which has delivered about 4,800 affordable homes in rural and island communities over the first four years of the Parliament.
He said: “It is important for the Scottish Government to help our valuable rural and island communities to provide sustainable affordable housing in their local areas.”
The CLS report said lack of affordable houses is one of the biggest factors in population loss, along with the growth in second homes and short-term holiday lets.
CLS chairman Ailsa Raeburn said: “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.
“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.”
Dr Calum Macleod, CLS’s policy director, said housing projects often act as a catalyst for wider community regeneration.
“Community led housing projects make a vital contribution to the sustainable local development and repopulation of our rural communities and areas. It’s therefore essential that the Rural Islands and Housing Fund is retained after the next Scottish Parliament election in May 2021.”
The report, by David Ross, a Press and Journal columnist, highlights how two houses at Ulva Ferry on Mull attracted two young families, including six children, and four more homes are planned.
Other examples include plans for 13 houses on Colonsay, six in Staffin in Skye and two on Eigg.