Housing minister to reaffirm commitment to rural housing delivery

Rural housingKevin Stewart MSP, minister for local government and housing, will outline his commitment to deliver affordable housing in Scotland at Rural Housing Scotland’s annual conference today.

Entitled Home Delivery: delivering rural housing across Scotland, the conference at Birnam Conference Centre in Perthshire aims to address infrastructure, land and planning and affordability obstacles.

Alastair Cameron, convenor of Rural Housing Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government has made a commitment to building 50,000 houses during this parliamentary term and we look forward to hearing how rural communities will receive their fair share of this investment.”

Research from Rural Housing Scotland reveals:

  • House prices have increased faster in rural areas- average rural house prices increased by 85% compared with 70% in urban areas between 2002/12
  • Rural Scotland has half the level of social housing found in urban areas- just 13.5% of houses in rural Scotland are for social rent
  • Lack of affordability is most acute in areas of rural Scotland- average house prices in Aberdeenshire  for example are 5.3 times average incomes
  • There are fewer first time buyers in rural Scotland- just 38% of rural house purchases were by first time buyers compared with 47% in urban areas - in Argyll just a third were first time buyers
  • 1 in 8 of all housing in remote rural areas is empty- 7.5% of houses are holiday homes and 5% are empty homes.

Alastair Cameron added:  “The scale of the challenge is considerable with significant barriers to rural housing delivery. However affordable rural housing is vital to build thriving rural communities and we hope our conference will demonstrate how it can be delivered.”

Debbie Mackay of Savills, who sits on the Rural Housing Scotland Board, said: “The RHS conference brings together policy makers, on the ground deliverers and everyone in between, to tackle the key issue affecting our rural communities – the stark lack of homes which people can afford to rent or buy in rural communities. It is our hope that everyone will go away challenged to do things differently.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We 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 than urban areas. This is why we launched the £25m Rural Housing Fund last February, followed by the new £5m Islands Housing Fund to increase the supply of affordable housing of all tenures in rural Scotland and on our islands. I am pleased we have had a very high level of interest, with the first homes already completed and others on-site.

“Through the Affordable Housing Supply programme  local authority areas across Scotland have been allocated a share of over £406m in grant subsidy to deliver more affordable homes for 2016-17 – over £100m more than last year’s allocation. This is the start of our five-year commitment to increasing the supply of affordable homes even further by setting a new target of delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 homes for social rent.”

The conference will also see Andy Wightman MSP discuss barriers and possible solutions to rural housing development, along with Graham Reid, head of development, North of Scotland at Savills, and Neil Clapperton, chief executive of Grampian Housing Association.

Professor Jim Hunter will discuss the debate on “rewilding”, arguing that rural Scotland needs “re-peopling” and that housing policy has to support rural regeneration.

He said: “Alongside wild land, we need ‘people places’, where the landscape and environment is made better by encouraging, not preventing, new rural housing.”

Professor Hunter is joined by Alasdair Stephen from Dualchas Architects who will set out a radical agenda for rural housing and rural development.

Alasdair said: “We know that a generation feels let down by the housing policy in Scotland and that radical action is needed to allow them to live, love and prosper in their own communities.”

The conference will also feature a number of workshops including:

  • Paul Chatterton from LILAC Coop, who will outline the development of the UK’s first affordable ecological cohousing project: a community of 20 households and a common house, based in Leeds. LILAC is an affordable straw bale development and is a Mutual Home Ownership Cooperative.
  • Moray Finch from Mull & Iona Community Trust will provide a practical example of re-peopling the small community of Ulva Ferry with the development of two community owned houses for rent.
  • Most affordable rural housing in England is developed through rural exceptions sites. Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive of Hastoe Housing Association, one of the largest affordable rural housing developers in England, will highlight how they have successfully developed in the countryside and discuss how planning policy in Scotland could secure much more land for affordable housing.
  • Linsay Chalmers from Community Land Scotland will discuss the opportunities for housing of the Land Reformand Community Empowerment Acts.
  • Michael Chisholm from Highland Small Community Housing Trust will present on the Highland Self Build Loan Fund.

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