With the Scottish Government committing to building 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the current parliament, the Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2016, run by the Rural and Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF), discussed how Scotland’s rural and island communities can ensure that a fair share of the homes are built in their areas and much more. Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards has been the keynote international speaker at the event.
According to the RIHAF, those living and working in Scotland’s rural and island areas are all too aware that they face unique housing challenges.
- higher housing construction costs due to the limited supply of land, higher infrastructure costs and build costs;
- higher housing purchasing costs due to reducing availability of affordable housing through Right to Buy and the urban to rural migration of wealthy commuters and retirees pushing up prices;
- low incomes in rural employment markets;
- high energy and transport costs; and
- difficulty in securing access to finance, for both occupants and developers
The event was addressed by the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart MSP. He said: “Housing is a priority for the Scottish Government, which is why we are increasing housing supply and are committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed by over £3 billion investment, during the lifetime of this Parliament. I 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 compared to urban areas. This is why we launched the £25 million Rural Housing Fund earlier this year to increase the supply of affordable housing of all tenures in rural Scotland.”
Sorcha outlined in her contribution the trends and shared innovative practices in renovation and affordable construction. She also informed that there is a tendency to talk about the housing situation in a country but that Housing Europe works to highlight the fact that housing needs vary not only between countries, but between and within regions and between and within cities and the RIHFA focus on the specific concerns of rural and island communities drives this message. Not enough attention is paid to this local diversity and the need for diverse housing policies to match these different realities.
When asked about the impact of the Brexit on Housing Europe UK membership, considering the value of exchange between housing providers, Sorcha confirmed that membership will not be affected.