Landowners appeal to help resolve Scotland’s rural housing crisis

Landowners appeal to help resolve Scotland’s rural housing crisis

Sarah-Jane Laing

Landowners have appealed to help resolve Scotland’s rural housing crisis – and asked the Scottish Government to knock down the barriers that exist in providing new and existing homes.

Scottish Land & Estates, which held its annual conference in Edinburgh today, said population decline and government ambition to improve rural housing will not be achieved because of long-standing issues on rural planning, infrastructure constraints, inflexibility on affordable housing models and a negative approach to private landlords.

Addressing delegates today, Sarah-Jane Laing, SLE chief executive, said: “Since the inception of the Scottish Parliament, there has been a wide political consensus to improve the sustainability of our rural communities but the stark reality is that we should be much further forward than we are now.

“Provision of rural housing is essential to the success of that strategy. We all share the goal of trying to increase the amount of rural housing but all too often that ambition is thwarted by delays in planning processes, lack of funding for private affordable homes, prohibitive infrastructure and utility costs and an ever-growing burden of private rented sector legislation.”

She added: “Members of Scottish Land & Estates provide more than 10,000 homes for rent in rural areas and many businesses are actively involved in building homes. They are dedicated to meeting a real social need but they are frustrated. Delivery of new homes is more complicated than it need be, and we continue to lose affordable rented housing due to ever increasing burden on landlords. The rate of new build affordable rented houses just cannot match the homes we are losing from the sector week on week.

“The time for action is now and we need to see the Scottish Government deliver on its commitment to provide rural solutions to rural housing need.”

Housing minister Shona Robison gave the keynote address at today’s conference.

Scottish Land & Estates said that a recent survey of members revealed 22% of properties could be lost to the market due to the burden of regulation, this includes 6% which have already been withdrawn. Landlords across the sector are also deeply concerned that there will be fewer homes available for tenants should changes to regulations on eviction procedures go ahead.

Speaking at the conference today, Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, a social enterprise specialising in building sustainable rural communities, added: “There have been great strides made in the sector over years but there needs to be greater flexibility in legislation to enable everyone who is involved in providing housing to get on with making more homes available for people. While there may well have been poor landlords in the past, regulation has swung too far the other way and we are at real risk of seeing unintended consequences.

“Everyone, from government down to rural housing providers wants to see thriving rural communities but there are no silver bullets. We need to pull together or we will be heading for a very difficult period.”

Jamie Carruthers, whose family run Dormont Estate in Dumfries, was in the vanguard of building low-energy houses for rent. He said: “We were delighted to build houses and renovate a number of cottages to provide more local housing but sadly, there has been a significant push against landlords in recent times.

“We all want to see more people living and working in rural communities and the private rented sector has a part to play in achieving that. However, if I was starting the project delivered at Dormont under present regulations then I would almost certainly decide the risks were too great and not go ahead with the build.”

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