In 2019/20 the Scottish Government consulted experts and communities across Scotland on the future of housing in Scotland. Along with encouraging individuals and communities to feed in to the consultation and hosting a consultation session at our annual conference, at Rural Housing Scotland we prepared our own response based on our work with rural communities across the country.
Whilst welcoming many aspects of the plan, our response includes the following points:
Housing needs /demand assessments should properly reflect the circumstances of rural settlements.
There should be an obligation upon housing associations to deliver housing in rural communities and an obligation on local authorities to plan for housing development in small communities.
“Help to build” support should be available alongside “help to buy” – to reflect the nature of the market in rural Scotland and provide support for self building as well as purchase from a developer.
Rural Housing Fund guidance should be changed to permit communities to enter into long term leasing arrangements with owners of empty property to bring long term empty property back into use.
Measures to increase hutting and licensing of short term lets could help ease the problems some areas face in terms of high volumes of second / holiday homes.
There should be appropriate affordable housing opportunities for all stages of life; and housing which encourages greater sharing and cooperation to foster greater community cohesion and to breakdown isolation.
Options such as baugruppen or collective self build should be fostered and supported with opportunities for participation for those on low incomes or wishing to rent.
Greater use of off site construction could increase quality and bring costs down.
We need measures to address the shortage and quality of builders and developers in rural Scotland.
Support is required from properly funded rural housing enablers to build the capacity of rural communities to take appropriate action on housing.
People should be enabled to remain and return to rural communities and rural homelessness should be properly recognised.
Geographic equity is important in the right of everyone to an adequate home.
To secure a fair share of housing investment and grow the level of social housing in rural communities, the way we plan where investment goes needs to change.
Scottish Government should develop a Rural Housing Policy to connect the various strands of Scottish Government policy relating to rural communities: tackling depopulation, delivering affordable housing; supporting community ownership; and growing the rural economy.
The Rural Housing Fund should be adapted to learn from the difficulties communities are currently facing to access it.
Co housing could also provide a housing solution for young people in rural communities.
Mutual Home Ownership Cooperatives offer a potentially transformative approach to affordable low cost home ownership in rural Scotland.
Connecting construction training with the development of homes for the trainees has multiple benefits including new homes, building skills, enhancing building sector capacity, stemming depopulation and diversifying construction provision.
While the mechanisms and funding are in place for communities to secure and develop empty property, support for enabling organisations such as Rural Housing Scotland and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to support community action.
Compulsory sale orders and compulsory leasing could also increase the number of homes being brought forward for renovation where allied to grant support from the Rural Housing Fund.
We welcome the proposals to enable local authorities to regulate short term lets and introduce control areas and believe that the use of these regulations should be automatic where Airbnb thresholds are breached.
Further research could be undertaken into the use of occupancy controls to limit second homes.
Strategic land assembly is required to secure land – particularly in priority areas.
Securing affordable land for rural housing development requires more permissive planning policies.
The Housing Infrastructure Fund has the potential to help unlock small strategic sites in rural communities, however its intervention in rural areas has been limited with a failure to view small sites as strategic.
Housing for Varying Needs is inadequate for the provision of accessible housing. T
Greater use of Scottish timber in house building would embody carbon, reduce movement of materials, support local economy and help to underpin increased native tree planting.
Current action on fuel poverty has focussed on the “low hanging fruit” of social housing in towns and cities – but most of the extreme fuel poverty in Scotland is experienced by those in private rented and owner occupied housing in villages and the countryside.
Building at higher density would help deliver vibrant and connected communities. It would make best use of infrastructure and resources, supporting efficient public transport and maximising value on housing investment.
Planning tends to be impenetrable to individuals and those with limited resources or experience. It is becoming far too expensive to see through small scale planning applications. Planning policy still fails to gasp the depopulation issue, too often constraining reasonable development options. Planning needs directed positively to facilitate appropriate rural housing development. It should be a tool to drive change in the public interest, not just a regulatory barrier.