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News / Struggle to meet housing demand goes on

PJP Architects' drawing of the prospective King Harald Street development in Lerwick.

DEMAND for affordable housing in the isles continues to outstrip supply, Shetland’s Islands Council’s development committee was told on Wednesday.

SIC housing executive manager Anita Jamieson said 51 new affordable accommodation units per annum are in line to be built in the next four years, but that is slightly below the target level.

That would require £16.6 million of funding, but Jamieson told councillors that the minimum amount of grant money due to come from the Scottish Government only comes to around half that figure.

It means that the council will need to continue to work with Hjaltland Housing Association (HHA) to explore new ways of securing funding as a result of the “challenging” public spending environment.

As part of the SIC’s strategic housing investment plan for 2017/18 to 2020/21, a total of 160 affordable housing units will be built by developer HHA over the next three years.

This includes 27 social rented flats on Lerwick’s King Harald Street, 36 units in the first phase of the Staney Hill development and four in Westview, Scalloway.

In year four and five of the plan, more houses will be built at Staney Hill, while there are plans to expand Strand in Gott and Lerwick’s Hill Grind, as well as to build eight shared equity properties at the town’s Pitt/Park Lane area.

Development committee chairman and North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper suggested that the council’s housing plans were viewed by some as too Lerwick-centric.

Jamieson said the bulk of the demand for housing was in Lerwick and central areas and that is reflected in the programme.

She added that past Lerwick developments have often been created in phases – not in one go – at the same time housing has been built in other areas.

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Some people have placed “unfair focus” on the numbers relating to town projects such as Staney Hill, Jamieson said.

It was also suggested that the Scottish Government’s rural housing fund, which ring fenced £5 million for islands, could be utilised to boost development in outlying areas.

Jamieson added that in theory some properties across Shetland may also be freed up when people move into “homes for life” units in the mooted King Harald Street development.

The specialised flats will house people with ambulant disabled or progressive conditions to allow them to live an independent lifestyle.

Shetland’s local housing strategy recognises that more accommodation options need to be in place for a growing ageing population.

The development committee approved the updated strategic housing investment plan for submission to the Scottish Government.

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