A growing housing crisis in the Western Isles was raised with Scottish Housing Minister
Keith Brown last night.
In talks with Western Isles Council, it was stressed to Mr Brown that plans to build
around 80 new social sector houses have to be abandoned because of deep cuts in funding
from the Scottish Government.
The meeting came immediately after Mr Brown officially opened a housing scheme at
Mackenzie Park at Melbost Farm on Lewis.
Cutting the ribbon in the cluster of neat semi-detached homes, the minister flagged
up that such construction projects provided vital work for builders as well as providing
badly needed homes.
An hour later, his own comments were rammed back at him during discussions with council
chiefs in Stornoway.
A council audit shows that 108 new homes are required over the next three years.
But the slashed government subsidy, even coupled with money from the local authority,
means only an estimated 24 to 30 new houses can be afforded.
Mr Brown earlier contradicted a recent council report which highlighted: "This level
of funding may affect the requirement to meet the 2012 Homeless target."
The report also stressed: "The reduced funding will also have a negative impact on
the local building trade and wider local economy."
The council says it has been badly hit by significant changes in the Scottish Government’s
system for allocating funding.
Yesterday Mr Brown insisted: "Supply is only one side of homelessness. Hubs which
have been established preventing homelessness in the first place and that‘s showing
He pointed out the UK government had cut Scotland’s budget by a third.
He said: "Extra funding is difficult for any government especially when we’ve had
a 36% cut in our capital budget - over a third cut over three years - so it’s difficult
to find extra money in these circumstances."
Mr Brown said he was "exploring with the council other ways in which it can raise
finances. There is now real appetite within institutional investors to get involved
in social housing for the first time."
Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council, said: "We have to build more houses
to allow more young people a chance to live here.
"We are pressing the case to give us more housing funding and also to recognise the
higher building costs in the islands. It takes more to build each unit here than
in the central belt of Scotland."
Funding cuts hampers plans to build 80 new island homes 18/7/12