Equality, opportunity, and community are the three overarching defining missions of this Government, and the provision of affordable housing in our remote, rural and island communities is vital to that.
Housing plays an important role in sustaining rural communities and supporting them to thrive. Housing of the right type in the right place to meet identified local needs, can have a powerful and generational impact, supporting people to access the homes they need, enabling young people to stay in the communities in which they grew up and supporting local businesses and services to retain and attract employees.
Since 2016, this Government has supported the delivery of over 10,000 affordable homes across remote, rural and island areas. We want to go further which is why we have committed to delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which 70% will be for social rent and 10% in our remote, rural and island communities.
Our long-term housing strategy, Housing to 2040, has at its core our ambition for everyone to have a safe, high-quality home that is affordable and meets their needs in the place they want to be.
The ambitions in Housing to 2040 will bring benefits to remote, rural and island communities, including those aimed at the better use of existing supply such as tackling empty homes, managing the use of second homes and short-term lets as well as supporting additional supply through our ambitious Affordable Housing Supply Programme.
I know there are specific housing challenges in some rural areas; one of my first acts as Housing Minister was to announce funding of up to £25 million for local authorities to identify affordable homes for key workers in rural areas. This Rural Affordable Housing for Key Workers Fund will support the retention and attraction of key workers in these areas.
During the summer, I took the opportunity to engage with a broad range of rural stakeholders and communities to see and hear first-hand about the significant activity being taken forward, the positive joint working, and also the challenges of delivering affordable homes across remote, rural and island areas. There is no silver bullet, and collaborative action will be vital to address a wide range of issues.
This plan represents a critical opportunity for collective action to support the delivery of the homes our rural and island communities need.
That includes the public sector – a number of public agencies have land and housing that may be suitable to help meet the affordable housing requirements including for key workers. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and I will explore how best to achieve this, so that as a government we are part of the solution to the challenges people in rural and island communities face.
The private sector also has a vital role to play as both employers and businesses with land and assets and we know that some are already engaging in providing quality homes for their employees. We can learn from their experiences and through this plan and our actions, work with them to support them to do more, while also ensuring we are supporting their needs as critical employers, often of high value jobs in our rural and island communities.
Importantly, I recognise that community-led housing plays an essential role in our broader approach to delivering more affordable homes. Our Rural and Islands Housing Fund is now a recognised feature of our Affordable Housing Supply Programme and is continuing to provide funding support to communities and organisations to deliver more affordable homes. This crucial and inspirational work is supported by a range of organisations, working with communities and others to make their ambitions a reality, to deliver the affordable homes they need, and it is vital that this work continues.
This Action Plan has been developed through strong engagement with our rural and island stakeholders and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for participating and for helping to inform the content of this plan.
Delivering the actions in this plan will require strong collaborative working to support a whole systems approach and calls on partners to work jointly to bring about the changes that we collectively need to deliver.
This plan complements other ambitious work being taken forward in support of remote, rural and island communities. It marks an important step in tackling the challenges head on and puts in place the systems and support for the delivery of the right homes in the right places that will help communities to thrive.
Paul McLennan MSP - Minister for Housing
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