Scottish Land & Estates has warmly welcomed today’s launch of the Rural Housing Fund - but cautioned that a consistent private housing policy is still required to rejuvenate the sector.
The new fund, which totals £25 million, will assist the delivery of new long term affordable rural housing over three financial years and was launched by Scottish Government Minister for Housing & Welfare, Margaret Burgess MSP, at a conference at Birnam.
The funding is split into two parts. The main fund will offer grant and loan support. There will also be a feasibility fund offering up to £10,000 grant to help developers scope out potential projects and develop robust, fully evidenced, applications for main funding.
Support will be available for new build, refurbishment of empty properties and conversion of commercial and non-domestic properties for residential housing. The resulting properties will have to be offered either for sale or rental at an affordable level. The fund will be available to legally constituted bodies which may include private landowners, private developers, community development trusts and housing trusts amongst others and collaboration is encouraged between different providers.
Katy Dickson, Policy Officer (Business & Property) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Scottish Land & Estates has been involved in the stakeholder group which directed the Scottish Government as to what was needed to support the delivery new affordable rural housing. We are delighted that recognition has been given to the additional problems and costs that developing new housing in rural areas brings.
“Previous schemes such as Rural Homes for Rent, which we were at the forefront of developing, were pioneering in their delivery of affordable rural housing but it should be recognised that many land-based businesses are consistently delivering homes at an affordable level without the help of public money.
“We now need to see consistent private housing policy. The Scottish Government is providing this fund to assist the development of rural affordable housing while also taking the Private Tenancies Bill through parliamentary process. The Bill may result in a reduced number of landlords willing to let properties, particularly at affordable rents.
“The long term health of the private rented sector is absolutely crucial in rural areas where social housing is lacking. We fully support more security for tenants but this must come hand in hand with the robust and comprehensive grounds which landlords were promised at the outset of the Bill. We are now in a situation where the landlord’s position has been so eroded that there is little incentive to take on the risk of letting property, particularly at a lower than market rent.”