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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 16:58 GMT
Rural housing market in 'crisis'
Rural houses
Rural house prices have risen by 40% over the past 12 months
Families are being forced to live in caravans and even boats as they have been priced them out of their own housing markets, a conference heard.

The lack of affordable housing in rural Scotland has reached crisis point, according to delegates at the event in Perthshire.

They said a 40% rise in countryside market values and the right to buy law had left homes in short supply.

Young people and those on low incomes found they were now out of their reach.

Out of reach

Raymond Young, the convener of conference organisers the Rural Housing Service, fears that without help many rural communities will die.

He said: "You won't get teachers, you won't get dentists, you won't get other people who are not even on low or middle incomes.

"They won't be able to afford to go and live in rural communities and service rural communities.

"There is agreement that we need more affordable rural housing."

Landowners, community representatives, housing professionals and MSPs all met at Friday's event to discuss possible solutions.

Changes to the planning system, broadening the range of housing providers, overcoming land ownership barriers and community-led solutions like Gigha were all ideas put forward.

Hundreds homeless

But some explained how the situation had already been allowed to go too far with hundreds left homeless in some remote areas.

One conference delegate said: "I am from the island of Mull, where out of a population of just under 3,000 there are over 600 people who are homeless, living in caravans and sometimes people actually stay on boats because there is no housing for them."

Another representative from rural Stirlingshire outlined a similar problem there with more than 600 people on the local housing association's waiting list for homes.

He estimated that, under current building rates, it would take 20 years to house that amount of people within the region.

BBC Scotland's Alan Grant
"No local people can bid for the houses"

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