A £25m Scottish rural housing fund pitched as providing 500 new homes by 2021 has seen only 80 approved and 23 built.
Documents published by investigative journalism platform The Ferret also show that a £5m Islands Fund to provide 100 new homes by the same date has only seen 14 approved and four completed.
The Ferret quotes campaigners as saying excessive bureaucracy, lack of support, tight time frames, and restrictive regulations have prevented communities from making use of the funding.
Launched in 2016, the £30m Rural and Islands Housing Funds were initially intended to cover three years but were extended to five years – with all approved projects to be completed by March 2021.
The funds are primarily available for capital support but also offer smaller contributions toward feasibility studies.
According to The Ferret, government officials insist the funds have “no target”.
But data obtained by The Ferret under FoI law shows that neither of the funds are on track to meet the government’s aims, with less than one fifth of the number of new homes promised so far given the go ahead and less than 5% built.
The data shows just 80 homes have had money from the rural housing fund, with a single-home project in South Lanarkshire currently awaiting approval, while less than £5m of the £25m fund has been allocated with only 23 homes completed.
From the Islands Housing Fund, only 14 homes across seven projects have been approved – accounting for just over £1m of the £5m fund.
Rural Housing Scotland says changes are needed to remove “substantial barriers” that prevented communities from using the funds and help needed to access support for grant applications and project development, to access land and to cover high infrastructure costs such as roads.
“We know that, despite the apparent limited take up of the funds, the need for rural housing across the country is substantial, and that many rural communities are very willing to develop housing projects where the financial and practical support to help them is available,” said Rural Housing Scotland’s chief executive, Derek Logie.
“We hope that the rural and islands housing funds continue but will have greater flexibility to encourage more communities to bring forward projects and will fund more support for communities,” he said.
Scottish Greens say the “deeply disappointing” figures mean the Scottish minister should match their stated ambition with “real funding” to deliver the homes rural Scotland needs.
“While the initial news of funding was welcome, it’s clear that the targets set are being missed and are denying people living in rural Scotland the chance to live in good-quality and affordable homes,” said the party’s housing spokesperson, Andy Wightman MSP .
Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart said the Rural and Islands Funds were part of wider housing policy to increase supply of long-term affordable housing in rural Scotland.
“We recognise the complex nature of rural housing projects, so the timescales for these funds were extended from the initial three years to five to allow as many projects as possible to come forward,” said Stewart.
“We continue to assess project applications to the Rural and Islands Housing Fund which can deliver affordable homes by March 2021, and these homes will contribute to the Scottish government’s overall target of 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.
“We are on track to deliver that over this parliament, which will include 35,000 homes for social rent.”
Stewart continued: “Collaboration and close working between the Scottish government and all local authorities, including for rural areas, is critical to the delivery of affordable homes across Scotland.
“We are continuing to listen to understand any specific local barriers to housing delivery and to set out the support available from the Scottish government.”