HIE's report looks at housing and development in the islands
Housing provision in the Western Isles comes under scrutiny in a new report published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise today (Wednesday 11 October 2017).
The document, called ‘Stimulating Housing Development in the Highlands and Islands’, looks at the state of housing in the Islands and across the whole of the Highlands region, identifying ways to tackle development needs and aspirations in different areas.
It highlights the benefits of partnership working and a ‘place based’ approach, tailoring developments to the specific needs of a community.
Douglas Cowan, HIE’s director of strengthening communities said that while there is “no easy fix” to issues that affect development, such as access to land, transportation costs, infrastructure, skills and labour supply, that the report is useful in providing information on where “key challenges” lie.
He said: “It is clear from the study that changing the way housing is planned and developed in the region could potentially be a huge boost to both business and community growth.
“We fully appreciate there is a lot happening in the region to address some of the challenges facing housing, with local authorities and housing associations in particular playing key roles. To that end we are sharing this report with our partners, particularly through Community Planning Partnerships, with a view to us all working together to seek to address some of the issues raised.”
The report was compiled following extensive consultation with the region’s seven local authorities, other public and private housing providers and key stakeholders.
It suggests that, in many areas, including the Western Isles, business development and expansion are adversely affected by the lack of affordable accommodation for workers.
Private sector housing schemes tend to be close to urban centres, with less activity in rural or fragile areas. Affordability is also an issue, particularly in popular tourism destinations with second homes. Young people in particular can face challenges finding homes in these areas, facing high prices and low incomes.
Lack of appropriate land was also highlighted as a major constraint in more rural areas, putting private developers off. In these areas, community-led development is often the catalyst for new housing but the processes can be complex and time consuming, and resources scant.
The Scottish Government is committing a record level of resources focused on increasing affordable housing supply, researchers observed. In outlining the scale of the gap between housing need, demand and supply, the report indicates the need for more, or different, positive action and intervention across tenures.
While the Rural Housing and Islands Funds, the Self-build Loan Fund and Croft House Grant scheme are directed towards smaller rural and remote communities, new interventions around infrastructure appear to be focused on strategic and larger sites in urban areas, the report notes.