Council and construction industry leaders in the Western Isles are looking for the Scottish Government to pay special attention to young families in the islands seeking to establish their own homes at a time of soaring demand for property and rising prices which put them beyond their reach.
In a statement yesterday (Thursday July 29) the Comhairle said that they welcome the announcement of £43m for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme in the Outer Hebrides.
The Scottish Government recently confirmed the Resource Planning Assumption (RPA) for the five-year period from 2021-2026 which will see up to £43m of new housing investment being made available for the Comhairle area.
This comes on top of the previous allocation of £25m over the past three years, which saw more than 120 new homes being completed and more than 150 currently in development.
This new allocation should make a significant contribution to the provision of affordable homes, and to the economy, CnES agrees.
However, following the announcement, the Comhairle met with its main delivery partner, Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP), and representatives from the contracting sector to discuss approaches to the delivery of the programme.
Councillor Kenny John MacLeod, Chairman of the Communities and Housing Committee, said: “The recent announcement of £43m for the Outer Hebrides is excellent news that has the potential to deliver significant numbers of new affordable homes over the next five years.
"The meeting with HHP and contracting sector were positive about the investment opportunities ahead and there is good commitment to deliver on the opportunity.
"All parties believe, however, that a more flexible approach will be essential to ensure the full £43m allocation is utilised. A range of ideas was discussed at the meetings and we will be collating and further developing these to discuss with the Scottish Government.”
Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie MacKay said: “The Comhairle is highly committed to continued investment in our housing sector and economy. We are keen to ensure the RPA is fully utilised and alongside HHP we will work to maximise the potential through the traditional affordable housing framework.
"I believe innovation and flexibility will, however, be required to address the very specific housing needs in the Outer Hebrides. In particular, I am keen that we invest in housing that will offer young families a route onto the housing ladder, that will bring empty and under-utilised properties back into productive use and that will help provide new homes around emerging business opportunities.
"I am keen that we find a way to invest in some of our more peripheral communities where demand may not be apparent through the traditional mechanisms of assessing demand. I am hopeful that the Scottish Government will allow us this flexibility and we will be developing some new approaches and pilots to present to the Minister over the next weeks.”