A CLAMOUR for new homes in the Highlands could be eased with a multimillion-pound injection of taxpayers’ money to tackle the problem of affordability.
The Scottish Government is increasing last year’s £28.8 million investment to £40.1 million in 2018-19. That will rise to £42.5 million next year and £45.3 million in 2020-21.
It is desperately needed, according to those in the front line facing daily calls from struggling Highlanders. Alasdair Christie, manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey, said: "We see more and more people who are struggling to be able to afford a home or being able to maintain tenancies.
"A lot of that is down to the fact that they simply don’t have the income to cover the cost of their rent and associated living expenses – and the demand greatly outweighs the supply of housing available. The real emphasis has to be on more council and housing association rented properties being made available."
According to Scottish Government statistics, almost 72,500 affordable homes have been added nationally since 2007. Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said affordability was "about more than just bricks and mortar" but providing "safe, warm homes".
He said the government was on target to deliver at least 50,000 over the duration of the current parliament – by 2021 – through more than £3 billion of investment. Of those, 35 per cent would be for social rent.
Across Scotland, such a scale of construction would create up to 14,000 jobs in construction and related industries during the life of the parliament. Mr Stewart said he was working with councils and housing associations "to deliver quality homes to meet local needs".
Labour MSP David Stewart welcomed the funding but called for an assurance that the right properties are being built. He said: "We’d invest more in good quality council and social housing, with a mixture of home types, ensuring options were attractive and available to help relieve the pressure so many young people feel about home ownership."