Government puts up almost £1 million for isles housing project

Steps to help combat Shetland’s housing shortage are underway with plans by Hjaltland Housing Association to build 10 new houses for social rent in Aith, thanks mainly to a six-figure investment from the Scottish government.

Construction of the new homes, which will provide a mixture of one, two and three bedroom houses, is expected to start early next month and be completed by April 2011. The government is providing a £971,014 grant towards the £1,457,909 development.

The news comes just weeks after Shetland lost out on a £24 million share of government cash for housing – the second time in a year the council was denied cash to shorten the 1,000-strong housing list.

Last month head of SIC’s housing service, Chris Medley, said a government decision to leave the isles off a list of 20 local authorities earmarked for funding was “the cruelest of acts” given the island’s continuing shortfall in social housing.

Speaking to The Shetland Times this week, West Side councillor Gary Robinson said he welcomed the news but added more had to be done if the housing shortage on the West Side and beyond was to be successfully dealt with.

“It really is a much-needed development,” he said. “We were concerned for a time because this was one of the developments Hjaltland thought they weren’t going to be able to go ahead with because of funding being reduced, but this subsequent grant funding means it can go ahead.

“It’s good news as far as the West Side goes. I’ve recently had folk from Walls speaking to me about the need for more houses out there.

“While it’s welcome, there is more work to do. If we don’t get houses there is a very good chance areas will depopulate.”

He said the council’s inability to get government funding last year was “disappointing” but added: “We have to take money when we can get it, so this has to be welcomed.”

A government spokesman said Hjaltland had made a “compelling case” to receive the money.

“There is a great need for affordable homes in Shetland like many other island communities.”

Housing and Communities Minister, Alex Neil said: “In these challenging times, this is great news for Shetland. The provision of quality affordable homes is vital to ensure the prosperity of our island communities.

“It helps to house and retain the local population, and will boost employment and the local economy.”


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