LOCAL people should have access to safe and warm housing at prices they can afford, according to a report charting the success of rural communities who have built their own affordable residences.

Home Delivery – Community Led Housing in Rural Scotland, published yesterday by Community Land Scotland (CLS), said many rural communities had raised funds and built the required houses over the last five years of the Scottish Government Rural and Islands Housing Fund.

CLS wants that fund to continue beyond March, when it is due to end in its current form.

“For too long people have been leaving villages and small towns across rural Scotland, because they could not find a house they could afford to live in, or were repeatedly evicted,” said Ailsa Raeburn, the body’s chair.

“In the fight against such depopulation, communities the length and breadth of rural Scotland have been coming together to build and manage their own affordable housing.

“These homes are low cost, highly energy efficient which means low heating bills, and aimed at helping people stay in their local area, and attracting back local people to return home, particularly young families.”

She said such developments were always about more than numbers – whether the size of the community or number of houses built.

“We have seen time and again that a very small number of houses can make a huge difference to our most economically fragile rural communities,” she said. “Community housing is an integral part of empowering communities and that is fundamentally about ensuring that land and other assets are owned and used in the public interest and for the common good.”

Local Government, Housing and Planning Minister Kevin Stewart said: “It has been inspiring to read more stories of rural communities coming together to build affordable, energy-efficient homes that offer tenants and owners long-term housing security.”

“Many have had the support of the £30 million Rural and Islands Housing Funds. This is part of our record investment of more than £3.5 billion over this parliamentary term that funds our Affordable Housing Supply Programme, which has delivered around 4800 affordable homes in these communities over the past four years.”

The development of just two houses at Ulva Ferry on Mull brought two young families to that community, four working age residents and six children to the local school. This stayed open and the community was given the confidence to go on and build four more affordable homes which are now under construction.

Three energy-efficient passivhaus-designed homes in Closeburn, Dumfries and Galloway are the first to be community owned in Scotland. They are completely airtight, heavily insulated and use very little energy for heating and cooling.

Nith Valley LEAF Trust hope their model might be used elsewhere in Scotland.

Hugh Ross, from the Staffin Community Trust at Trotternish on Skye, said: “We refused to sleepwalk into becoming a retirement village dominated by holiday accommodation.

“Our project would have not happened without the Rural and Islands Housing Fund. It is vital to Staffin as we haven’t had affordable houses here for 21 years.”