One of the biggest problems facing rural communities in Scotland is a shortage of affordable housing. While tourism can bring in much-needed benefits to rural areas of Scotland, it has also had a negative impact on both the availability and cost of housing.
The rural housing shortage is an issue that Carsphairn Community Council in Dumfries and Galloway have been discussing for years and, using funding of £5000 from the Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund, they are commissioning a Housing Needs and Demands Assessment (HNDA) which will provide a profile of the local housing situation in Carsphairn.
The Community Council has formed an Affordable Housing sub-group which will lead on exploring and addressing affordable housing issues in Carsphairn, and they are working with South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), a charity which provides support to rural and community-led housing across the South of Scotland area as an affordable housing “enabler.”
They provide expert advice to community organisations at each stage of a housing project, from the initial idea, through project development and viability assessment, during the delivery phase and beyond and have developed a track record in supporting the delivery of projects supported by the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund.
Carsphairn Community Council and South of Scotland Community Housing will first work together on a series of consultation and engagement projects to establish local priorities and to gauge support for community-led and affordable housing. An online survey will be followed by face to face engagement with specific identified groups within the wider community, along with specific Carsphairn Community Council engagement and consultation events. South of Scotland Community Housing will also work with partners to achieve a wider understanding of housing need in this area, including Dumfries and Galloway Council, Registered Social Landlords and South of Scotland Enterprise.
This community engagement work will support the creation of a Housing Needs and Demands Assessment (HNDA) which will provide an insight into affordability and the impact that rising house prices, created by factors such as the lack of new house building, holiday homes, second homes and short-term rentals, are having on the availability of housing offers for local needs. It will also take into consideration the need for home workspace, within and outside the home, due to the continuing shift in workplace patterns, as well as measures required to address fuel poverty and develop Net Zero homes.
The funding from the Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund will also allow SOSCH to undertake a Site Audit to identify potential sites and buildings that might be suitable for the development of community-led housing. This entails a planning search aligned to Local Development Plan policy as well as a 'Call for Sites' exercise within the community to local landowners.
The HNDA activity will be the first step in this community-led process to develop housing for local needs, while the 'Call for Sites' exercise will engage local landowners to consider making land and buildings available for consideration. With the provision of community-led housing local people will be able to access affordable housing which will help to ensure the sustainability of Carsphairn as a community.
Liz Holmes, Chair of Carsphairn Community Council, said:
“Carsphairn is one of the smallest communities in Dumfries & Galloway at around 180 residents and the Community Council has been discussing the need for affordable housing as long as I have been a resident here for over 50 years.
“The advent of community benefit funds from wind farm developments in the Carsphairn area alongside proposals to close our village school have galvanised the community council to take what action we can to support the need for affordable eco houses.
“We are working with the South of Scotland Community Housing organisation to create affordable housing to bring young families into the community to support Carsphairn's sustainability into the future.”