In 2020 the Scottish Government invited Rural Housing Scotland to take part in a review of the Rural and Islands Housing Fund (RIHF) ahead of the end of the initial 5-year funding period in 2021.
Our response recognises the potential for the continuation and development of the RIHF but makes the following recommendations for how the fund could be adapted to better support housing development in rural and island communities:
- Publicity – intermediaries such as Rural Housing Scotland (RHS) could be utilised to increase awareness of / promote the fund by highlight case studies, organising community learning exchanges, developing webinars and providing a focus at our annual conference. As a charitable organisation RHS would need funding to carry out this work.
- Support – intermediaries such as RHS should be funded to help communities initiate, plan and develop projects, including housing needs research, which can help communities reach the point where they are ready to apply for the fund
- Policy – the funding should be aligned with the Scottish Government’s rural policy priorities regarding repopulation and rural economic development.
- Scope – grant funding should be available for individual and collective self-build in a replacement to the discontinued Rural Home Ownership Grants, with grants converted into an equity share.
- Innovation – the fund should encourage, and create financial models to support, cohousing and mutual homeownership cooperatives which could revolutionise the provision of housing for young and old alike.
- Enable – grant funding should be available to enable the development phase of projects to fill the current gap which prevents some projects translating from feasibility to delivery.
- Reuse – the financial model should link the amount of grant awarded to number of years available for affordable rent, encourage many more applications from private estates who are often resistant to RIHF projects due to the need for the housing to remain affordable in perpetuity.
- Coproduction – communication and collaboration between the Rural and Islands Housing Fund, intermediaries, and Scottish Government rural policy practitioners (e.g. Islands Team), should be improved.