Today we are launching our Building Our Rural Future manifesto, laying out ten actions we believe politicians and policy makers need to take to enable affordable rural housing and help our rural communities thrive.
In preparation for the 2021 Holyrood elections, and coming ahead of this week’s debate in the Scottish Parliament around concerns over the rural housing market in Scotland, the manifesto calls for a fair share of investment in rural housing, and a specific rural housing policy to underpin the strategy and measures needed to tackle the shortage of affordable homes in rural areas.
“The lack of affordable rural housing is having a detrimental effect on the day-to-day lives of individuals and communities across rural Scotland, but tackling this issue will not only improve lives on a local level – it will also allow rural places to live up to their full potential which has advantages for the nation as a whole,” explained Derek Logie, Chief Executive of Rural Housing Scotland. “When we remove the worry over housing security and allow people to, instead, divert their energy into building a future in our rural places, we can see a return on investment with benefits for public health, the economy and civic engagement.”
As well as calling for controls on short-term lets and second ‘homes’ in areas where these are having significant impact on local housing, the manifesto also asserts the need for more support to tackle the issue of empty homes in order to bring spaces back onto use and avoid them falling into dereliction.
The extension and expansion of the Rural and Islands Housing Funds, due to close in early 2021, is also key theme of the manifesto, alongside the development of a first-time self-builders fund, in parallel with the Scottish Government’s First Time Buyers Fund, in recognition of the fact that self-build is a crucial route to affordable housing in many rural communities.
However, the calls for support extend beyond funding, echoing the findings of the recent Scottish Land Commission report which called for greater resourcing for facilitators like Rural Housing Scotland in their work with often volunteer-led community housing initiatives. The manifesto sets out what is needed to truly enable communities to act on this issue as well as recommending wider national support for accessing land via a land-banking agency, and practical support for rural infrastructure.
A shared pool of good quality ‘instant housing’, which can be moved between communities in need whilst more permanent homes are being built, is recommended as a way to tackle immediate and pressing housing need in areas where time is required to develop sustainable long-term solutions. In addition, an exploration of a wider variety of routes to providing homes, such as co-housing, collective self-build and mutual home ownership, is highlighted as crucial to ensuring a flexible approach to meeting the needs of communities and individuals.
Planning, sustainability and fuel poverty are also highlighted as crucial issues which require specific attention if there is to be an effective, long-term solution to the rural housing crisis the country is facing.
“This manifesto has been developed using our extensive experience of working with rural communities over the last 20 years”, explained Derek Logie. “We urge all political parties to incorporate these actions into their own manifestos ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections and identify ways they can proactively support measures to allow rural communities to reach their full potential for local and national benefit.”
Find out more on our Building Our Rural Future manifesto page.