Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur met with Housing Minister, Paul McLennan today to discuss a range of different issues related to housing in the islands. The meeting follows a recent debate in parliament on community-led housing, where Mr McArthur highlighted some of the specific challenges faced by the Council, developers, local trusts, and community groups in trying to meet the growing housing needs in Orkney.
Mr McArthur was joined at the meeting by Luke Fraser, formerly head of the house-build programme within Orkney Islands Council, and currently an adviser to various community-led housing projects in Orkney and Shetland.
Commenting on the meeting, Mr McArthur said:
“Access to affordable housing in Orkney has become a serious issue over recent years. With demand outstripping supply for almost all types of housing, costs have risen sharply creating real problems for those looking to rent or to buy.
“Having campaigned successfully for the establishment of the Rural and Islands Housing Funds, I believe they have the potential to ease some of the pressure we are seeing locally. It was helpful, therefore, to be able to discuss with the Housing Minister ways in which these funds can be used to take forward projects that start to address the needs of communities in the smaller isles as well as on the mainland.
“Of course, building houses in the islands, particularly the smaller isles, involves additional costs. These have been pushed up even higher by rampant inflation over the past year, a fact acknowledged by the Minister. If projects are not to stall, however, the Housing Funds must have flexibility to accommodate these cost increases, as far as possible.
“The meeting also provided an opportunity to update the Minister on progress being made in developing a co-housing model in Orkney. This innovative scheme, based in the Hope, aims to create affordable rental homes for older people who want to live independently and build a supportive community. In turn, this can deliver benefits in terms of reducing isolation and care costs, something that can then be mirrored through similar co-housing projects in other parts of the country.”