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Major summit takes place to find ways of tackling chronic shortage of affordable homes in Badenoch and Strathspey

By Gavin Musgrove

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Affordable housing being built in Aviemore but demand far outweighs the supply.
Affordable housing being built in Aviemore but demand far outweighs the supply.

Business leaders, public sector and community representatives came together today to discuss the housing crisis in Badenoch and Strathspey.

Scottish Finance Secretary and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes and Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, were amongst those who attended the summit at Macdonald Aviemore Resort.

The gathering was led by the Cairngorms Business Partnership and brought together some of the significant employers in the strath and leaders from Highland Council, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Highland Housing Alliance, Communities Housing Trust, Scottish Government officials, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and representatives of the local community.

The summit held behind closed doors discussed work under way to help people, who want to live in, work in and care for the area.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison

Ms Robison, who opened the summit, commented: “Good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s remote and rural communities.

"As part of our £3.4 billion Affordable Housing Supply Programme we have delivered more than 6,000 affordable homes in rural and island communities between 2016-17 and 2020/21.

"Building on this, we are now working to deliver 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032, of which 10 per cent will be in our remote, rural and island communities.

"This will be backed by a Remote, Rural & Islands Housing Action Plan – we now want to engage with community organisations and those in the public and private sector to ensure it delivers for people in these areas.”

The results of a recent business housing demand survey in the strath, conducted by 56 Degree insight, were released at the summit.

The results found:

● two in three businesses state the lack of affordable housing has inhibited their ability to recruit new staff (68 per cent).

● 39 per cent indicated that this was having a ‘major impact’ on their business.

● Over half of the businesses (59 per cent) expected the issues to worsen if no action was taken.

The meeting heard that there are currently 180 job vacancies in Badenoch and Strathspey listed on the Indeed website alone.

Survey results suggest that around 50 of these will not be filled due to a shortage of suitable homes.

The survey was commissioned by Highland Council and the CBP.

The Scottish Government, the CNPA and the council have undertaken to take the results into account when assessing housing needs analysis for Badenoch and Strathspey and therefore funding and allocations for public sector supported housing.

The summit also discussed an innovative scheme being led by the CBP to improve the prospects for local employees looking to rent homes in the strath.

In a pilot partnership with the council and the Highland Housing Alliance (HHA,) with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the CBP will establish a not for profit, business led, organisation that will offer rent void guarantees to HHA and in return properties will be allocated based on local employment needs.

The initial pilot for four homes in Aviemore is expected to be available for occupation in summer 2022.

Mark Tate has been spearheading local housing solutions in his role as CBP chief.
Mark Tate has been spearheading local housing solutions in his role as CBP chief.

Mark Tate, CBP chief executive, said: “The lack of affordable homes for people who want to work in, live in and care for the national park, has long been a problem.

"This past summer it has severely impacted business recovery.

"This pilot clearly demonstrates that businesses are prepared to make a contribution to help alleviate the problem and ensure new mid market rent housing is available for people working locally.

"We very much see all of the work we are discussing here today as work that we can replicate across the national park and can be useful for many rural communities beyond that.”

Highland Council convener and local councillor Bill Lobban commented: “The biggest issue facing our community is the provision of affordable housing.

"Our economy is almost exclusively tourism based so we do need accommodation for tourists but we also desperately need homes for the local people who live and work here many of whom serve the tourists who come here in their droves.

"There has to be a balance and currently that balance has shifted far too far away from the provision of affordable housing and we must redress that balance as a matter of urgency.”

Xander McDade, convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “The availability of affordable housing is an issue of profound importance to the communities and businesses of the national park, something which is again coming across loud and clear from our consultation on the next Park Partnership Plan.

"Having recently increased the affordable housing requirement to 45 per cent in key settlements, we welcome today’s announcements and look forward to working with partners on substantially increasing affordable housing as set out in the draft National Park Partnership Plan.”

Closing the morning meeting, Ms Forbes commented: “I am delighted that the Housing Minister Shona Robison is spending time with businesses to seek to resolve this major issue.

“There are tools at our disposal, in terms of building and securing more housing, but we need to make sure it is the right kind of housing for those who are most in need.”

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