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Big boost for affordable housing

SIC housing executive manager Anita Jamieson

A SUBSTANTIAL increase in Scottish government investment in affordable housing in Shetland next year has been welcomed by the islands’ authority.

On Thursday housing minister Margaret Burgess said Shetland’s allocation would rise by 60 per cent from £1.9 million to £3.2 million in 2016/17.

The cash is part of a £572 million government package to boost the social housing sector throughout the country.

Shetland Islands Council and Hjaltland Housing Association will be meeting over the next few weeks to discuss how to spend the money, which is around £1 million more than they expected.

SIC housing executive manager Anita Jamieson said the islands’ current building programme for social housing is focussed around Lerwick and Shetland’s central mainland.

Welcoming the announcement, Jamieson called it “genuine good news” that would help the islands’ difficulties with affordable housing, which have been exacerbated by oil industry developments in the islands.

Jamieson said that people in Shetland had been paying “London rents” as private landlords took advantage of the upsurge in recruitment while French oil giant built a new gas plant in the isles.

She added that the government had acknowledged the extra cost of building houses in the islands by increasing its contribution per property as a result of successful lobbying in recent years.

Housing associations in island and remote areas now receive £82,000 per property from the government, up from £68,000 last year, while councils get £57,000, up from £46,000.

This compares to urban areas, which receive £70,000 and less remote rural areas get £72,000 per property.

Jamieson said the average cost of building a house in Shetland was now around £135,000, up from £100,000 just a few years ago.

Shetland’s housing waiting list stands at around 850 at the moment.

There are plans to develop a 400 house mixed development at Staney Hill over the next two to three years, but this is still at the design phase and work is unlikely to start for two or three years.