Village pleads for help after '70 years with no affordable housing'

Residents from Leverburgh, in South Harris, have urged the Scottish Government to back a proposed 12-house development.

A village in the Outer Hebrides has issued an urgent plea for Government help amid claims that no affordable houses have been built there in 70 years.

People in Leverburgh, in South Harris, have written to Scotland’s housing minister Paul McLennan amid a shortage of homes.

The plea comes as the Scottish Government considers whether it can allocate funding to a proposed 12-house development by the Hebridean Housing Partnership in the village.

Donnie MacDonald, chair of South Harris Community Council, wrote that education, local business, and the care and voluntary sector are all struggling as a result of the lack of housing.

“The development is the key to our future and the very survival of our community,” he said.

“It is almost 70 years since the last affordable housing was built in Leverburgh.

“We have watched, for too many years, as governments have come and gone, as funding has been allocated and spent, in almost every area of the Western Isles apart from our own.

“The wait for affordable housing has gone on too long and has cost us greatly. Any further delay will very likely be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“As a community, we cannot, and should not, bear the ill-effects of the lack of affordable housing any longer. There are so many reasons why this development must go ahead.”

The Scottish Government has launched a 'depopulation action plan'. STV News

Catriona MacLennan, just one out of a population of 866 people, said the funding decision is part of a “much wider picture”.

“If this doesn’t go ahead this is going to set a detrimental precedent for rural housing as a whole”, she told STV News.

“We’ve seen plenty of money spent in the town of Stornoway, meanwhile we smaller places are struggling. And if this doesn’t change, it will be a case of the last person to leave needs to turn off the light.”

Depopulation action plan

The plea from the residents of Leverburgh comes as the Scottish Government launches an “action plan” to address rural and island depopulation.

The Addressing Depopulation Action Plan includes targeted funding to support places where populations are set to decrease and ministers say they are setting out steps to “strengthen communities and empower local leaders”.

Migration minister Emma Roddick previously said: “People are Scotland’s greatest asset. However, a falling birth rate, ageing population, and lower inward migration after Brexit mean that some places need support to secure the populations required to help their local communities and economies thrive.

“Addressing depopulation is a priority for this government. While there is no quick fix to the challenges that lead to population decline, this plan will set out the next steps in our work to help communities up and down the country grasp opportunities and unleash their potential.

“Understanding that depopulation affects different places in different ways is at the heart of this strategy.

“Local leaders and organisations know their communities best, and we will set out concrete steps to empower them and channel their expertise.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “Good quality, affordable housing is essential to help people to live in our rural and island communities, such as South Harris. Our commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes, of which at least 70% will be for social rent and 10% in our rural and island communities, is backed up by our Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan.

“Demand led funds such as the £30m Rural and Island Housing Fund and the Rural Affordable Homes for Key Workers Fund are key elements of our approach to addressing specific rural housing issues where they arise.

“The Scottish Government More Homes area team is currently working with Hebridean Housing Partnership to fully assess a submitted project and I will respond in due course to the letter I received from South Harris Community Council.”

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