A Scottish Government scheme to help build vital affordable homes in rural areas has spent less than half of its £25 million budget in five years.
Conservative MSP Donald Cameron accused the SNP administration at Holyrood of “failing to deliver” after he found that the cash was being released at a “snail’s pace”.
The Highlands and Islands representative used parliamentary questions to confirm that £11.4m of the £25m allocated to the Rural Housing Fund had been distributed to date.
The initiative had been due to run from 2016/17 to 2021 but has now been extended.
A chronic shortage of affordable housing was repeatedly raised as a major issue during a research project we carried out with Survation in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament election earlier this year.
In August last year, we revealed that only 59 homes had been delivered in four years under the scheme, while a further nine were completed using the £5m Islands Housing Fund.
A total of 500 homes were initially anticipated under the Rural Housing Fund alone.
Mr Cameron said: “This is an all too typical case of the SNP government talking a good game, but completely failing to deliver.
“Over their 14 years in charge, SNP ministers have continued to routinely ignore the needs of our rural communities.
“They have released this funding at a snail’s pace which simply isn’t good enough. Half of the funding they promised hasn’t found its way to those areas that vitally need good quality housing.
They have released this funding at a snail’s pace which simply isn’t good enough. Half of the funding they promised hasn’t found its way to those areas that vitally need good quality housing.”
“As we recover from the pandemic, meeting the demand for housing in our rural areas is crucial to our recovery to attract people to live and work in these communities.
“The SNP must guarantee that this funding will be delivered at a far quicker pace than they have managed in recent years, where progress has been woefully slow.”
The new figures show that the Islands Housing Fund has distributed more than its initial £5m allocation, at £6.2m over five years.
The funds offer capital support grants and loans for direct provision of new affordable housing, and refurbishment of existing empty properties, as well as a contribution to feasibility studies.
Since their launch, the two funds have supported house building schemes in Blairgowrie, Achiltibuie, Inverkeilor, Findhorn, Fort Augustus, Glenmoriston, Logiealmond, Drumnadrochit, Kelso, Gairloch, Durness, Mull, Harris, Lewis, Orkney, Aultbea, Abriachan and Innerleithen.
A series of further projects were approved for sites in Rum, North Uist, Inverfarigaig, Blair Atholl, Edderton and Kinlochbervie.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Rural and Islands Housing Funds have been described as ‘game changers’ for community-led housing development – taken together with our £3.4 billion Affordable Housing Supply Programme they have delivered more than 4,800 affordable homes in rural and island communities between 2016/17 and 2019/20.
“The schemes were developed in collaboration with community housing trusts, with funding allocated to fully developed projects that obtained permission to deliver housing in their communities. We are working with partner organisations to further promote the schemes to ensure as many people are able to benefit as possible.”