Western Isles Labour candidate Donald Crichton has called for action to address the alarmingly high number of homes that are left vacant in the Western Isles.
Mr Crichton was commenting on the recent findings in the Bank of Scotland Vacancy Property Report that reported the Western Isles has 1,876 empty homes - the largest proportion of vacant houses in Scotland. Some 13.3% of houses in the islands are empty - over three times the average for Scotland (4.3%).
Mr Crichton said: “This is an alarming statistic and underlines the challenges we face with a declining population and weakened housing market. The emerging community trusts in the Western Isles have an excellent opportunity with the projected revenue they will generate from renewable energy projects to invest in the local vacant housing stock. Acting as their own local housing associations they could refurbish the properties rent them out or have a rent to buy arrangement. This would give young people struggling to get onto the housing ladder a really great start and at the same time stimulate the market and the local economy. This is not a new idea it has been articulated before but it is a good one that would address a local situation by local means.”
He concluded that the surplus in traditional croft houses is “symbolic of our times” with our ageing population. But with initiative and imagination he said this sector of the property market could be renewed and be the means of repopulating our rural communities.
“Community Trusts are best placed to drive this initiative with their local knowledge and their projected financial means it would be an excellent way of investing for the future,” added Mr Crichton.