Argyll and Bute councillors today agreed to set up a new fund aimed at stimulating rural regeneration and addressing local housing needs.
The Rural Housing Development Fund will kick off with £750,000. Registered social landlords and community development trusts will be able to bid for a share of the money to build affordable homes in their areas.
Initially, bids will be sought for six areas which demonstrate high levels of housing need and have been assessed as fragile local economies or key rural renaissance settlements with the potential to promote local regeneration opportunities.
These areas are Strachur, Ardfern, Tiree, Iona, Port Ellen and Succoth, which features as a planned area of activity for development as a quality destination within the National Park Plan.
The announcement came on the same day as the council’s Executive pledged more than £1million in grants for affordable housing projects.
The money will be spent in schemes in Helensburgh, Dunbeg and Dalmally, and will contribute towards a total of 109 new affordable homes.
Councillor Robin Currie, spokesperson for rural and island affairs, housing and Gaelic, said: “I am delighted that we are able to support the provision of vital additional affordable housing across Argyll and Bute in these two quite separate ways.
“It is no secret that we have an acute shortage of affordable housing, and I welcome any initiative which seeks to ease this situation.
“In setting up this new fund, the council has proved it is willing to take a strategic lead in encouraging the development of new affordable homes to sustain and regenerate some of our most remote and fragile rural communities.”
Any bid submitted to the new fund will be the subject of a report to the council’s Executive.
The Rural Housing Development Fund money is coming from the council’s Strategic Housing Fund (SHF), which has contributed some £2.8million to housing developments across Argyll and Bute since it was set up in 2007.
Today, councillors agreed to use the SHF to provide:
- Dunbritton Housing Association with a £510,000 grant to support the development of 51 affordable homes on the former Hermitage Academy site in Helensburgh
- West Highland Housing Association with a £500,000 grant to support the development of 50 affordable homes at Dunbeg
- Argyll Community Housing Association with a £97,000 grant to support the development of eight affordable homes at Dalmally
Each of these schemes has already been awarded a significant amount of Government money.
At the same time, the council’s Executive agreed in principle to provide loans to two housing associations (Dunbritton Housing Association and Fyne Homes) to aid their efforts to provide affordable homes.
Councillor Currie said: “We recognise that this is a challenging time for developers, and we are keen to help maximise the opportunities available to them.
“The grants we agreed today will enable a further £10.6million of much-needed affordable housing to proceed across Argyll and Bute.
“Investment in housing is crucial for the sustainability and regeneration of our communities. It also makes an important contribution to local employment and provides vital support to the local construction industry during a period of economic recession.
“I am delighted that Argyll and Bute Council is not only continuing to award grants, but is also setting up a new Rural Housing Development Fund in a bid to enable both the authority itself and its community planning partners to deliver their strategic aims.”
It is anticipated that applications are invited from the new fund next month, with a deadline if February 2012. The bids will be assessed by the council’s Executive in April 2012.