IF you want to live in the most desirable place in Scotland, be prepared to fork out in the region of £900,000.

That’s for a four-bedroom pad in Little Dunkeld adjacent to the slightly bigger Dunkeld, named the best town to live in Scotland by the Sunday Times.

Crucially, the seller warns that the property for sale is likely to be the last chance to buy a new home as there are no further development plots within the village.

That is part of the problem facing the local community where a large part of the population is over 75 and there is almost no affordable accommodation for their carers. Nor is there affordable housing for shop workers, hotel staff, teachers and tradesmen because house prices are so astronomical.

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“We are struggling to be able to get enough people for the retained fire service and we have a real problem getting enough entry level properties for our young people – we’ve lost some rather lovely people from our population because they could not afford to stay here,” said Beth Taylor, a member of the local area Housing Action Group.

As well the lack of housing for sale and rent at affordable prices, nearly a sixth (15%) of the local housing in the area comprises second homes, self-catering units and short term lets on Airbnb.

The Housing Action Group is now appealing for local residents and landowners to look at providing land at a discount so that affordable housing can be built.

“Dunkeld and Birnam face significant barriers to housing developments as they sit within a conservation area and there are restrictions to building within sight of the ancient cathedral overseen by Historic Scotland,” said Taylor.

“Another issue is the extensive flood risk affecting land on both sides of the river and there is a shortage of council owned land or property which could easily be purchased for development.

“Historically, the local estates provided a lot of affordable rental property but many of these houses have sold to the open market or been turned into holiday homes,” she added.

“We are appealing to everyone to be aware of the bigger picture as we need to have people living here as well as being able to have accommodation for people coming on holiday. We would like the whole community to come together to acknowledge the problem and be creative about solutions.”

The Housing Action Group is currently working with Perth and Kinross Council and Communities Housing Trust to find suitable infill sites that might be developed quickly.

The issues facing the community in the Dunkeld and Birnam area are symptomatic of the problems facing the majority of scenic rural towns and villages in Scotland.

In nearby Aberfeldy, which is reported to have the highest percentage of Airbnbs in the whole of the UK at 36%, there is an “existential threat” to the viability of the community, according to Gill Steele, of the recently formed Aberfeldy Development Trust.

“We feel our community is absolutely at a tipping point,” she said. “Average salaries are less than 24k here but average house prices are £344,000 so there is a massive disconnect. There are lots of really wealthy people around like JK Rowling but that hides the fact that there are people who are really struggling.”

Set up by eight volunteers just over a year ago, the trust has made progress that the Dunkeld and Birnam community can so far only dream of, by identifying council land where 10 affordable houses can be built.

The trouble is that another 193 are needed within the next five years.

The need was identified in a survey, supported by the Communities Housing Trust and Perth and Kinross Council, which found that 60% of the responding businesses said the lack of affordable housing was negatively directly impacting on their business.

Council-owned land has now been identified as a potential site for up to 10 affordable homes and the Aberfeldy volunteers have secured funding from the Scottish Land Fund and the Rural Housing Fund for a feasibility study. They have also secured funding for a part-time development officer.

“That feels like a really important step because at the moment it is just us volunteers,” said Steele.

She points out that the rural housing issue cannot be solved by the work of volunteers alone.

“I do support the current Scottish Government politically but I don’t think they are doing enough – it should not be up to a bunch of volunteers to sort out the housing issues,” she said.

“Community empowerment is a great thing because we can prioritise local people in an allocation system and make sure the homes stay affordable but the Government is relying too much on volunteers. The Welsh government is doing more but even that is not enough.

“In a world where a lot of people are struggling to have one home I don’t think people have an automatic right to two or three houses. We control a lot of things and I think there should be stronger controls on second homes.”

Steele said the Scottish Government could do much more to control second home ownership and the local authority should also use new powers to make Highland Perthshire a short term let control zone.

Dunkeld and Birnam’s Housing Action Group also support the restriction of short term lets and creation of a Highland Perthshire zone.

“More needs to be done or we will all be turned into pop-up communities that only appear in the summer. It is really worrying,” said Steele.

“People say short-term lets bring money in but as a community we might get more value – not just from the social justice point of view – but more value from people actually living and working from these houses rather than them being rented out.

“It really feels like we are up against it but the council has used our housing needs survey to speak with a potential house builder in Aberfeldy so we are hopeful we can start by building these ten affordable houses and offer them to the community – that is going to feel amazing.”

A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “We appreciate the positive feedback from community groups in Highland Perthshire, and our recently approved new local housing strategy contains a number of key actions intended to improve access to affordable housing.

“Councillors will in the near future be asked for approval to consult on the principle of introducing a short-term let control area within Perthshire. This would help improve access to quality, affordable housing for residents.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have committed to delivering 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032 – with at least 10% in our remote, rural and island areas.

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“A total of £3.5 billion funding is being made available in this parliamentary term towards the delivery of affordable homes which includes continued support of up to £30 million towards our Rural and Island Housing Fund for communities and organisations not able to access traditional affordable housing funding.

“We are taking a number of steps to prioritise homes for living in. These include proposals to give councils powers to set fairer and more appropriate council tax levels on second homes.

“The Scottish Government encourage members of the public to contribute to the consultation on second homes council tax, which is open now and the Minister for Housing looks forward to engaging with rural communities and stakeholders in the coming months to discuss these important issues.”