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Council / Concerns raised over impact rising costs could have on housing plans

COUNCILLORS have voiced fears that plans to increase the islands’ housing stock could be hampered by high goods prices and demand for tradespeople outstripping supply in the coming months and years.

The council – along with Hjaltland Housing and private developers – aims to deliver hundreds of new homes to address a long-standing shortage.

But during Tuesday’s development committee meeting South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan voiced his fear about rising costs.

Duncan pointed to a near-50 per cent rise in the cost of white timber since last summer, while insulation costs have also risen, and he added that cement was “nearly gold dust now because a lot of it is being swallowed up in the new railway link in the south of England”.

He questioned whether those factors, along with a delay in some goods coming from Europe post-Brexit, might “have an effect on our housing projects” and delay efforts to attract people to “work, study, live and invest in Shetland”.

Committee chairman Alastair Cooper said it appeared demand for electricians and plumbers was “very overheated” and some tradespeople had “never been busier”.

SIC development director Neil Grant said there was undoubtedly “significant cost inflation in the construction industry” and it was “difficult to know how much is short to medium term disruption” related to Covid-19 and the UK leaving the EU.

“At the moment we’ve got projects on the ground,” he said. “If it continues into the medium/long term it will have a real impact on projects and ultimately how that then goes into things like rents.”

Last week Robert Bell of local estate agents Harper MacLeod said the local housing market was “frenetic” with demand exceeding supply.

Lerwick councillor Stephen Flaws suggested there might be a risk that Shetland was attracting “the wrong type of folk who are buying a second home”, making it more difficult for “locals trying to find their way on the property market”.