Flea in plea for housing cash

SHETLAND is going to increase the pressure on Scottish housing minister Alex Neil in the hope to secure vital funding for an affordable housing programme.

At the end of last year, Shetland’s bid for £4.3 million from the Incentivising New Council House Building Fund was turned down because the government felt Shetland should not increase its already significant housing debts any further.

The minister has now agreed to meet a delegation from Shetland, early next month, to listen again to the islands’ case for government cash.

The SIC’s housing spokesman, Allison Duncan, said it was “absolutely vital” that more affordable housing was built to reduce the number of those on the waiting list and also to attract new people to Shetland.

The council had planned to spend £20 million to build almost 200 units while the Hjaltland Housing Association have plans for 300 more affordable house over the next seven years.

The SIC wanted to finance its programme through borrowing, increased rents plus the anticipated contribution from the government.

This programme will now have to be cut back, a move that will have a devastating effect on the isles’ abilities to provide affordable housing, according to Mr Duncan.

Yesterday (Friday), he said it had taken him four attempts to secure the meeting with the minister on 4 March.

He said the minister’s refusal to help Shetland had come as a blow, adding that he was not prepared to accept a ‘no’ as an answer.

“I was very disappointed and annoyed that we, and particularly the staff at the housing department, had spent so much time preparing an excellent application which got us nowhere,” he said.

He added: “Securing this funding is of the utmost importance, because if we don’t get it we will not be able to build as many house as we would like to.

“We have about 1,000 people on the housing waiting list, waiting to be allocated a tenancy.”

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