In the third blog in our series on moving home to Uist we will be looking at accessing housing in Uist. There is a brief background on the broader issues effecting the availability of housing in Uist, but also in the broader context of the Highlands and Islands. We hope that you find the information helpful and inspiring!
One of the most important parts of looking to move somewhere is finding somewhere suitable to stay – you might simply be looking for a comfortable and guaranteed long-term let to rent or, if you’re building/ renovating a house on the croft, looking for a base while the work gets done. You may also be in the market to buy a property, but you might feel a bit of trepidation about the nature of the housing market and your chances in the age of Airbnb. In this blog, we will look at the context of recent years and the challenges that have become increasingly difficult – knowledge is power, as they say – but primarily, we will emphasise the available help and how you can increase your chances of finding your dream home.
In the last few years, the popularity of short-term holiday lets and second homes has exploded in the Western Isles. Much of this can be attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: the desire to have somewhere to escape to in challenging and uncertain times is understandable. However, the increased competition for housing makes it difficult for young families to get on the housing ladder. The problem is that many of these second homes lie empty for most of the year – you will get anecdotes from many around the islands about the dark spaces where there used to be the lights coming from occupied houses. It leads to a situation where communities begin to get smaller and smaller. This article about the situation in Barra mirrors the feeling in Uist. You can enter “Second Homes Highlands and Islands” into Google and find many articles covering the situation in Skye and across the region, like this piece from Dani Garavelli highlighting the issues arising from short-term lets across Scotland. We need living, vibrant communities to keep Gaelic culture alive and for the well-being of everyone currently living in Uist. So, where do you start your search for your new home in Uist?
If you are looking to buy a house, have a look at the local estate agents’ websites:
UistBeò will also highlight properties on the market on our Socials, so follow us on all our channels to stay up-to-date. If you want to build a new house, you will also find building plots for sale on the above websites. On the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar website, you will find many resources that you will find helpful throughout your journey: from grants to support, it is an invaluable resource.
Uist has a vibrant crofting community which continues to this day, and it may be that you are coming home to a croft. Crofting is vital to Uist’s cultural life and heritage and contributes to Scotland’s food production; however, some crofting sites have fallen into disrepair. In an effort to address this issue of vacant properties and sustain and strengthen crofting as a way of life, support is available in the form of the Croft House Grant. If you are looking to rebuild or renovate a Croft House, the CHG opportunities scheme provides grants to improve and maintain the standards of Crofter housing. There are obligations around croft land and its use, which I will look at in the next blog post.
What if the house you are looking to renovate isn’t a croft house? Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are looking to bring empty properties back into occupation; if you are in this situation and need support with the following steps, then contact the Comhairle, and they will be able to help you. The Comhairle also employ a dedicated resettlement officer for Uist, if you need any assistance in making the move to Uist then don’t hesitate to contact Kareen MacRury at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kareen will be more than happy to help you access the support you need to smooth the transition to living in Uist.
An important thing to note, however, is If you’ve never visited Uist before and you want to move here, you should visit the islands frequently first. This will give you a sense of the different areas and what would suit your needs. It would also be a great idea to visit at other times of the year; the conditions in June – August can vary wildly from the climate from October to March. To get a feel for the community, many people decide to rent a home for the first few months. This way, they familiarise themselves with the different communities and Uist way of life and take their time searching for more permanent housing.
If you are looking to rent, we advise you to look on local Facebook groups like Uist Noticeboard, South Uist Appreciation Society and Isle of Benbecula. If you can’t find anything, don’t hesitate to ask on those Facebook groups, rental accommodation can be found via word-of-mouth. People will be more than happy to help you find somewhere. It is sometimes challenging to find a long-term private rental; social housing is also an option, with the Hebridean Housing Partnership maintaining various sites from Berneray to Eriskay. Their website has all the information and resources you need to apply for housing.
We hope you found this summary of the information available about housing in Uist helpful. It can be a daunting prospect at first, but all the resources and information you need are out there. Feel free to reach out to people if you need some guidance, the Facebook groups linked in this article are excellent sources of information, and people are generally more than happy to help you. There are also projects like the Smart Clachans that will increase the availability of housing for people looking to build their lives in Uist. I have included some handy links below for further reading/