Holiday home hunters blocked from buying South Uist property in new move for island market
The house in Daliburgh is being sold for offers over £100,000 by the Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP), a social landlord which manages stock transferred from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
For the first time, the partnership has stated the house would “not be available” to those seeking a holiday or second home, with priority given to first time buyers and local residents.
Dena Macleod, chief executive of HHP, said the step, which was set out in the property particulars, was taken in response to a campaign by young islanders which urged action on the housing crisis.
The pandemic has intensified demand for island properties, with outside buyers often able to grossly outbid local people and high numbers of properties used as holiday homes or rentals.
Ms Macleod said: "We discussed the property with the council and agreed the sale presented an opportunity to offer it to first time buyers and contribute to the work being done locally to stem population decline.
"If this action can help one local young person in getting a foot on the ladder and to get a house of their own, it is a positive step."
However, Ms Macleod said it would be difficult to enforce in law the preferred position that a local buyer was found.
Analysis last year set out the scale of depopulation now facing the Outer Hebrides, with the population set to fall by 16 per cent – or by just over 4,000 people - by 2043. Meanwhile, the population of Scotland is set to rise by 2.5 per cent over the same period.
The working age group in the Outer Hebrides is facing the largest decline in Scotland with a predicted drop of 6 per cent by 2028.
By then, the Outer Hebrides is projected to have a 25 per cent increase in those aged 75 and over.
Depopulation is being tackled on a number of fronts, with the Scottish Government consulting on a proposed £50,000 “island bond” to encourage families to relocate. Some observers have said the money would be better spent on housing, infrastructure, connectivity and services to encourage people to stay.
In July, the Scottish Government announced £43m for the building of affordable homes on the Western Isles.
Pàdruig Moireasdan, 25, a crofter and musician of Grimsay, who helped organise the Uist housing campaign, welcomed the move by HHP.
He said: “I think it is a fantastic step and a really exciting development and its something I would really like to see more of.
“It comes as we are seeing, even over the last few months, estate agents on Harris advertising properties as being in walk-in condition as holiday homes, so to see this from HPP is a really welcome contrast. I would like to see estate agents on the islands encourage vendors to put in these clauses for houses where possible.
"Over the past six months, I have known young interested buyers putting in offers well over the asking price but been beaten by someone who has come in with a cash offer or £20,000 or £30,000 over the asking price. That is the battle we face.”
Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP for MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (SNP), said: “It’s great to see the ideas put forward by the young housing group being listened to in Uist. HHP are to be commended for listening to their concerns and putting restrictions in place for this sale. I hope such restrictions can be more widely utilised in future.
“Over the past few years, young people have increasingly struggled to get onto the island housing market. Property prices have surged but younger islanders don’t have the economic power to keep up. More and more properties are becoming AirBnBs or second homes at the same time we’re trying to tackle depopulation. It’s not a sustainable situation if we want the islands to keep having communities instead of holiday villages.”
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