SCOTTISH Government Housing Minister Margaret Burgess MSP was today asked to revive the hugely successful Rural Homes for Rent grant scheme pioneered by Scottish Land & Estates and piloted by the Scottish Government in 2008, during a visit to one project funded by the scheme at Dormont Park near Lockerbie.
The award-winning ‘homes that heat themselves’ on the Dormont Estate in Dumfriesshire provided the Minister with a first-hand view of the Rural Homes for Rent scheme in practice. The scheme is the only one of its kind to involve private landowners using their land assets with the assistance of government grants to deliver new build, affordable rented homes in rural parts of Scotland where economies and communities are fragile and housing associations or councils can struggle to operate.
Sarah-Jane Laing, Scottish Land & Estates’ Head of Policy, explained the benefits of Rural Homes for Rent being embraced by the Scottish Government:
“The majority of the 53 new homes delivered by the Rural Homes for Rent pilot scheme in the last four years have been built by members of Scottish Land & Estates. Our members are committed to working with the Scottish Government to create more success stories of the kind seen by Margaret Burgess today at Dormont but the Government does now need to take action and progress this scheme from a pilot to a fully recognised strand of housing delivery. It should be seen as a bona fide option for affordable housing, and rural landowners should be given the chance to build housing for their communities within the supportive structure of the grant fund.
“Private landowners being supported in this way would benefit everyone. The government, as it would meet its affordable homes in the countryside target using an innovative funding mechanism that is already tried and tested, landowners, as they could create or continue a business that earns them an income to support their estate and surrounding economy while also opening up their asset for the public good, and of course local people in priority need who could live in rural areas in homes that are energy efficient, well built and administered within a protected, government-backed programme.
Housing and Welfare Minister, Margaret Burgess, said:
“It was a pleasure to visit Dormont Park today to meet some of the residents benefiting from the Rural Homes for Rent pilot scheme.
“Having witnessed the success of this scheme first hand I am eager to see how we can use innovative projects like these on a wider level. I look forward to hearing more from the estate’s owner, Jamie Carruthers, about further developments over the coming months.
Dormont Estate owner Jamie Carruthers commented:
“We were delighted to have the Housing and Welfare Minister visit today to see just how effective the Rural Homes for Rent scheme has been on the Dormont Estate, and how happy the residents are to have affordable, energy-efficient homes in such a rural area.
“The house building debate is going through a critical phase at the moment particularly in relation to support from the public purse for investment in affordable housing for rent. Unfortunately it appears the private sector has been effectively excluded from this budget. This is very surprising since the Rural Homes for Rent pilot scheme demonstrated beyond doubt that the private sector can build more homes per tax pound than registered social landlords.
“I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to discuss this with the Minister today and look forward to the appropriate next steps now being taken to see if this innovative scheme can be revived. This would allow the building of more houses for rural families across Scotland similar to the award-winning development we have here at Dormont Park.”