Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today praised the role of community-led housing projects in bringing affordable housing to rural and island communities, and called for more to be done to support them.
Taking part in a members’ debate on community-led housing, Mr McArthur spoke of the challenges faced by the sector, particularly highlighting the gaps in funding that many community-led projects face. With inflation high and tighter standards due to be introduced, Mr McArthur noted that the already-high cost of projects in the islands will only increase, underscoring the need for funding to reflect this.
Mr McArthur highlighted in particular the Hope CoHousing project in Orkney, praising the benefits this model can deliver especially for older members of the community, from preventing social isolation to reducing care costs. He encouraged the Scottish Government to look more closely at the role cohousing can play in meeting the country’s housing needs.
Speaking during the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“Community-led housing has a key part to play in helping us meet housing needs in rural and island areas. At a time when demand is running so far ahead of supply, Ministers need to do more to facilitate such projects, both in terms of funding but also through the planning process.
“The costs faced by community-led housing projects are high and rising, but government funding has not kept pace. Land, materials, labour are all becoming more expensive, especially where community schemes are competing with private developers.
“I welcome the Government’s decision to set a specific target for affordable housing in rural areas, but we are well off the pace in delivering this and the overall target of 110,000 houses by 2032. Turning this around will require additional resources as well as more flexibility in the way those resources can be used.
“Ministers have also made funding available for councils and housing associations to provide affordable housing for essential workers in our rural and island communities. While welcome, this needs to be extended to development trusts and community bodies who often play a vital role in the delivery of housing projects in the smaller isles.
“More and more, the need for affordable housing is seen as critical to sustaining rural and island communities. However, meeting that need will require both new investment and new ideas.”