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HOUSING CRISIS: New report shows over 30,500 homes in Highland area face housing needs

By Rachel Smart

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A new report has shown that over 30,500 homes in the Highland Council area face one or more forms of housing need
A new report has shown that over 30,500 homes in the Highland Council area face one or more forms of housing need

A new report has shown that over 30,500 homes in the Highland Council area face one or more forms of housing need. The figure comes from research carried out by Homes for Scotland, which represents the country's homebuilders.

The report highlights that within the Highlands, 4000 were found to be living in overcrowded accommodation, and a further 2000 were found to be living in ‘unfit’ properties where at least one aspect of the property is in ‘very poor’ condition.

It also shows that 15,000 had at least one individual or group of people in an existing household who wish to move out to form their own household but are currently unable to do so.

Additionally, 4,000 were in properties that required specialised housing adaptation or support and 9,000 say they are struggling financially due to high housing costs.

A Highland MSP has said that 'urgent action' is needed to tackle the issue, and that the 'Scottish Governments plan to build 11,000 new homes in rural and island areas by 2032 is simply not enough to tackle the problems that we face.'

Rhoda Grant MSP
Rhoda Grant MSP

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant MSP commented: “This timely report raises an issue that I am acutely aware of. For years, there have been severe housing shortages and related issues across Highland Council - concerns that extend to all areas of the Highlands and Islands, including areas not covered by this study.

“The findings of this study show that the Scottish Governments plan to build 11,000 new homes in rural and island areas by 2032 is simply not enough to tackle the problems that we face.

“As well as building new suitable and affordable homes, we need to see urgent action that retains our current housing stock for local residents who wish to live and work in the area. "Unfortunately, too many communities have far more second homes and holiday homes than they are able to sustain, an issue that is forcing people away and leading to devastating depopulation of our rural and island areas.”

The report found that estimates of housing need to date, calculated through the Scottish Government’s Housing Need and Demand Assessment (HNDA) tool, have significantly underestimated how many households are facing housing hardship.

According to the report, a significantly higher number of households in Highland than that currently identified should be counted as being in housing need.

Official data also shows that across Highland Council 500 households are living in homeless temporary accommodation and a further 9,959 people are on the waiting list for a social home.

SNP MSP Emma Roddick, said that her tackling homelessness is her 'number one priority'.

She said: "We know that whatever type of homelessness someone faces, it can have lifelong impacts; I know this myself having been homeless. It takes away employment opportunities, your sense of security, and often ends up costing a lot, creating a vicious cycle."

Fellow SNP MSP Fergus Ewing said The Scottish Government has to 're-think' its approach to the housing shortage and that the report is 'stark proof of the acute shortage of houses in Highland'.

He said: "The focus should be on enabling business, developers, speeding planning and administrative actions by Scottish Water and others, and to empower farmers, crofters and land managers with permitted developments rights to build up to five homes on each holding. Sadly, the Housing Minister rejected this proposal out of hand though not giving any reasons for this.

"The Council have innovative thinkers and imaginative solutions to address the shortage but they are hamstrung by the lack of more flexible support from the Scottish Government , and the failure to acknowledge just how much greater the costs of buildling each home can be, especially in remote rural and Islands parts of the Highlands.

"A sea change in the approach is required otherwise these figures may well get worse”

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “This damning report highlights the sheer number of individuals and families in the Highlands struggling in their current living situations.

"There is a housing crisis right across Scotland, but it can have the most devastating of impacts in our island and rural communities where it not only threatens the quality of life, but also risks the very sustainability of these communities.

"Considering this SNP Government's appalling track record on housing, it is shameful that the report's findings are far from surprising.

“They have repeatedly failed to address what has been a growing problem, with rural and islands housing funds left unallocated despite being extended because of poor uptake.

“A lack of suitable housing can have a serious impact on the well-being of individuals and families, and the SNP continue to leave too many Highland households in accommodation that just doesn’t meet their needs."

Homes For Scotland chief executive Jane Wood said: “Adequate housing is a human right, but today more than a quarter of households in Scotland are in one or more forms of housing need – including 30,500 in Highland Council. There is simply no excuse for Scotland to continue this housing deficit trajectory.

"By utilising data to inform policies, and with public and private sectors working collaboratively and intelligently together, we have the opportunity to recognise the true extent of housing need in Scotland and to build the homes of all tenures that we need in adequate numbers and in the right places.

“We need to create an inclusive and agile housing system, one that meets the needs of all those living in Scotland and can cope with additional demand caused by unexpected and global events. We are committed to working with the Highland Council to do just that.

“As this comprehensive report demonstrates, the level of housing need far exceeds the current calculations used to determine where and how many homes need to be built in Highland Council and across Scotland. It provides local authorities and the Scottish Government with an effective and robust data tool to help them understand true housing need at local and national levels.

“It is our hope that, in our shared endeavour to end the housing crisis, this data will be welcomed and used by the Scottish Government, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that our housing needs are properly met."

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