Young families are being frozen out of owning a home in rural areas because of a lack of houses coming on to the property market.

According to the latest figures, the number of homes being built in areas such as Argyll and Bute and Dumfries and Galloway has dropped by almost half during the past 10 years compared to the decade before, while in the Borders it has fallen by a quarter.

At the same time, the rising number of houses being snapped up as holiday homes and the relatively small numbers of people moving on are creating a feedback loop where there are not enough dwellings to go around.

Instead, people are being forced into temporary accommodation such as static caravans or they simply move away to city suburbs and commuters belts where housebuilding has been concentrated.

Further compounding the problem is the cost of building on rural land, with landowners charging a premium for sites which could potentially be used to alleviate demand.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, who has campaigned for land reform, said: “It is a big, big problem, especially for young people. 

“There is a shortage of affordable housing which meets the needs of the people living in rural communities.

“What needs to happen is two things. First we need to give councils the power of consent when someone proposes changing a home to a holiday home, and also we need to allow social home providers, community organisations and local authorities to purchase land at closer to the original value.

“When land is sold with planning permission or the perception that it will be used for housebuilding then you can add £50,000 on to the asking price, even for rough arable land.”

He added: “Selling it for what it is actually worth, not to private builders but to councils and social housing providers, would allow more house to be built as budgets could be stretched further.”

Faisal Faisal Choudhry, director of Scottish Research and Residential Research at estate agents Savills, said that house price growth had not been as big a barrier to purchasing a home in rural areas as it has in the cities.

Instead, the problem has been supply for the housing market and the number of new homes being built.

He said: “The lack of houses in rural areas and the difficulty people experience purchasing a property is not because of house price growth, but because of a lack of choice.

“If no new supply is coming on to the market then people are forced to stay renting or living with parents, and that’s eventually not sustainable for young couples looking for their first home.”

He said that the amount of social housing being built had gone some way to alleviating the problem, but it still left people waiting months, or even years, to get the keys to their own home.

Mr Choudhry said: “With social housing you have to be qualified to get on to the council’s list, and it is means tested. And people can be waiting years in some cases.

“They end up looking at areas where there are homes coming onto the market, such as Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire and the Lothians, and move there.

“But these places aren’t rural. People are faced with a choice: stay in the hope that something comes up, or up sticks and go to where the houses are.”

Three years ago, the Scottish government launched two projects, the
£25 million Rural Housing Fund and the £5m Islands Housing Fund, to provide grants and loans to groups building homes in areas where there is pressure on the housing market.

According to the latest statistics from July, it has helped fund almost 50 homes, including new dwellings in Dumfries and Galloway, Orkney, the Highlands and Kinross.

Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart, said: “We remain on track to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, including 35,000 for social rent, backed by record investment of more than
£3.3 billion. Our most recent official statistics show we have delivered more than 86,000 affordable homes since 2007.

“The £30m Rural and Islands Housing Funds were launched as part of wider housing policy to increase supply of long term affordable housing in rural areas. 

“Given the complex nature of rural housing projects, we extended the timescales for these funds from the initial three years to five to allow
as many projects as possible to come forward.

“We are also working to ensure those who aspire to home ownership are able to achieve it and over 32,000 households have been supported through our home ownership schemes since 2007.”