Rural and island communities issue call for fair share of 50,000 affordable homes

Rural housingWith the Scottish Government committing to building 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the current parliament, a conference beginning today is to discuss how Scotland’s rural and island communities can ensure that a fair share of the homes are built in their areas.

The Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2016, run by the Rural and Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF), will debate this issue, and much more, over the course of the two-day event.

According to the RIHAF, those living and working in Scotland’s rural and island areas are all too aware that they face unique housing challenges.

These include:

  • higher housing construction costs due to the limited supply of land, higher infrastructure costs and build costs;
  • higher housing purchasing costs due to reducing availability of affordable housing through Right to Buy and the urban to rural migration of wealthy commuters and retirees pushing up prices;
  • low incomes in rural employment markets;
  • high energy and transport costs; and
  • difficulty in securing access to finance, for both occupants and developers
  • Martin Pollhammer, RIHAF Treasurer, said: “We want to see housing investment split fairly and proportionately between each Scottish Government rural housing classification but specifically to ensure remote rural and island areas get their fair share.

    “The new grant funding regime is welcome, as is the level of investment, but it makes larger schemes more attractive. We are concerned that this could result in further lack of investment in affordable homes in the areas that arguably need it most, and these areas have generally lower levels of affordable homes as a percentage of the overall stock to start with.

    “RIHAF is ready to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the challenges faced by rural and island landlords can be overcome in order to deliver the affordable homes that are desperately needed.”

    The event will be addressed by minister for local government and housing Kevin Stewart MSP tomorrow.

    He said: “Housing is a priority for the Scottish Government, which is why we are increasing housing supply and are committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed by over £3 billion investment, during the lifetime of this Parliament.

    “I know that good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s remote and rural communities and also that building affordable housing in rural areas presents different challenges compared to urban areas. This is why we launched the £25 million Rural Housing Fund earlier this year to increase the supply of affordable housing of all tenures in rural Scotland. I am pleased that in the first eight months of this fund, we have had a very high level of interest.

    “Last month, I was delighted to launch the new £5 million Islands Housing Fund which is aimed specifically at increasing the supply of good quality affordable housing on our islands. This, along with the forthcoming Islands Bill, is set to provide lasting benefits for these communities for generations to come.

    “There is still much work to be done to ensure this housing challenge is met, and this will require all parties sharing expertise and working together. The Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference is another step on the road to meeting our targets.”

    The event will feature speakers from rural and island areas and also look to other countries for inspiration. There will be a plenary session exploring whether or not Scotland could develop a Norwegian-style economy and if this would create a more equal society.

    Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General of Housing Europe, will talk about the changing development environment and how political factors, such as Brexit, could affect it and how associations can still deliver in this challenging climate.

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