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Action calls on rural housing ‘crisis’

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By Fiona Reid
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Action calls on rural housing 'crisis'

SOUTH Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has slammed the Scottish Government’s rural housing action plan and said it doesn’t go far enough to mitigate the current housing “crisis”.

Speaking during a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament, he highlighted the many housing issues facing rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway.

The local MSP said: “South of Scotland Enterprise has described the lack of affordable housing as one of the biggest economic barriers that the region faces.

“There has been an increase of more than 90 per cent in the number of open homelessness cases in Dumfries and Galloway compared with 2019-20. The number of children in temporary accommodation in the region has risen by two thirds in a year. The crisis is so bad that housing officers are placing people in caravans and in 50 bed and breakfasts across the region.

“However, the number of homes in Dumfries and Galloway given grant funding by the Scottish Government in the year to the end of June as part of the affordable housing supply programme was down by 22 per cent.

“The number of affordable homes being built in the region is at its lowest since 2016.”

Mr Smyth continued: “It is little wonder that, despite its many admirable aims, the universal response to the Government’s rural housing action plan is that there simply is not enough action.

“We can see the lack of that emergency response and a lack of ambition in the Government’s motion, not least in the target of ten per cent of the planned affordable homes being in rural and island areas.

“We need far more action in the Government’s so-called action plan. That means more urgent targets for building new homes in rural areas.”

And he repeated Labour calls for local authorities to be given powers to introduce an escalating council tax surcharge on empty homes, adding: “A 100 per cent second home surcharge would raise £1.8 million in Dumfries and Galloway alone, and an empty home escalator would raise a further £1 million. That money could be used to bring more empty properties back into use.

“To kick-start house building, we need a more can-do approach in our planning processes and new rural-specific consenting processes.

“We also need an allocation of resources that properly reflects the additional costs of housing in rural areas, particularly the costs of renovation and energy efficiency measures in older properties.”

Dumfries and West

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