Dilution of the Gaelic language threatens its very survival. Why can’t people born in the Highlands buy a house there?
By Martin Baillie
The Gaelic Crisis in the vernacular communities is as much a result of the housing crisis, the commercialisation of crofting, of poor transport infrastructure, of insufficient progress on land reform and over-tourism, as it is a result of an ongoing lack of investment in Gaelic development at community level, and a lack of strategic policy co-ordination at national level.
Gaelic will only survive in communities which can survive and thrive sustainably. The perceptive proverb states that it takes a village to raise a child, can it be said then that it takes a healthy sustainable community to retain and develop a language? What good will educational and cultural initiatives do if young people and young families are unable to live in the areas where they were raised?
There is a rural housing crisis which constitutes an economic clearance of young people raised in the Highlands and Islands. This crisis is fatally undermining efforts to maintain the Gaelic language and culture in rural and island communities and threatening their very existence.
Young people, working professionals and families all struggle to get access to housing on the open market. Government ‘help to buy’ schemes, and the proposed ‘Islands Bond’ do not help, they use public money to subsidise further price increases, transferring public funds to private profit. It seems there is a lack of understanding of the nature of the housing market and the extent of the housing crisis. While there is an urgent need for more social and affordable housing, this alone does not address the underlying issue, nor help working professionals compete with investors, retirees, and second home buyers, to buy their own home.
All homes sold in Scotland must have a ‘Home Report’. A registered surveyor will prepare this report, which will state the condition and value of the house, and give the house an EPC, Energy Performance Certificate. This price is considered reasonable based on the condition of the house and the market. But the value of a house varies depending on what it is then used for. If a house is bought as a home, you will not be able to make money from it to recoup the purchase price. If a house is bought as a rental property investment, particularly in popular tourist areas, a substantial profit can be made each week to recoup, and thereby justify a higher purchase price.
Homes are being sold for their values as rental properties, rather than for their value as residences. Homes are often sold for more than 30% over the Home Report value. Houses are currently being sold, often unseen, to wealthy individuals and companies who have the money to pay over 130% of the Home Report value in cash.
Building more homes will not address this economic imbalance. The housing market must be regulated.
As a buyer, you must have the money for a deposit of between 5% and 20% of the value of the house, depending on your employment situation and the bank. The mortgage will be based on the value of the house as assessed in the Home Report. If you have a decent
salary, you can get a mortgage of up to 95% of the Home Report value. The mortgage obtained is based on the price in the Home Report, not the sale price. Housing in the Highlands is in high demand, and tourism makes rental income valuable, with houses often being sold for 120 – 150% of the Home Report value.
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