Kate Forbes (pictured) will use her next parliamentary term to focus on tackling the lack of affordable housing for young people and families in the West Highlands, if she is re-elected as the constituency MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.
In a response to a 1,900-strong petition about the urgent need for sustainable jobs and much more affordable housing on Skye, Ms Forbes said that as a young Highlander herself she too would have signed the petition if she’d faced the same challenges of the signatories.
Acknowledging it was a complex and multi-faceted issue, the SNP candidate said she is committed to pursuing four separate actions:
-Supporting more ‘rural burdens’ on properties to prohibit the sale of certain properties for profit or to buyers who do not live or work in the area
-Delivering more affordable homes
-Using available tax powers and other regulations to disincentivise second home ownership
-Supporting diversification of rural jobs
In recent weeks Ms Forbes set up a meeting between residents of Skye and Lochalsh with the Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, and is already pursuing the creation of a housing taskforce for the West Highlands.
In her response to the petition signatories, Kate Forbes said:
“I think that every signatory is perfectly right to feel frustrated and aggrieved about the housing imbalance in the West Highlands.
“It boils down to the very survival of thriving communities.
“The silent majority in Skye are being priced out of their homes and exiled from the Highlands.
“Young people with reasonable incomes cannot afford a home because the demand for holiday accommodation, either as short term lets or as second homes, outstrips supply.
“The need to diversify the local economy further has been evident during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Whilst it is easy to identify the problem, we should be in no doubt that tackling this issue will prove unpopular, as the recent debate about regulating short term lets proved.
“During the months of increasingly hyperbolic debate about the issue, a number of young Sgitheanaich privately approached me out of sheer frustration that their needs were being completely ignored and misrepresented.
“With no young people left in Skye, there will not be a workforce for any industry.
“I’m glad to see those private concerns are now public and the petition is still growing.
“The four steps I outlined in my letter can only be the start of the process if we are to take unpopular action to rebalance the housing market.
“Young Highland voices must be heard in these debates and they cannot be silent or drowned out.
“The very life of our communities is at stake, as any visit to certain villages in Wester Ross will demonstrate.
“Too many Highland villages no longer have a single light on at night because every house is an empty house.
“I do not have a monopoly on solutions, but I will work with Iomairt an Eilein to pilot and implement solutions.”