Shetland Islands Council is to undertake a major consultation into housing need in the isles to help decide on future priorities.
Beginning this week, a series of public meetings, surgeries and presentations will be held where members of the public will be encouraged to give their views.
Online and paper surveys will also be conducted as opinions can be sent by mail or telephoned in to the council’s housing department.
The aim is to tackle some of the key issues facing housing in Shetland, which include a major increase in homelessness, with a rise of 60 per cent recorded between 2004/5 and 2008/9; fuel poverty, with 66 per cent of pensioner households considered “fuel poor”; a lack of affordable housing; and houses too big for their occupants’ needs.
These problems are compounded by an ageing population. By 2031, it is predicted that there will be a 50 per cent rise in over 65 year olds while the number of 0-15 year olds is expected to drop by 31 per cent and the number of 16-64 year-olds by 20 per cent.
The shortage of affordable housing in Shetland is well documented. This week the council is being asked to consider granting £3.5 million over and above what has been budgeted for this year in order to help Hjaltland Housing Association build 75 new rental homes throughout the isles.
The housing strategy is being developed by a steering group made up of representatives of Hjaltland Housing Association, NHS Shetland, Shetland Citizens Advice Bureau, Shetland Council of Social Service, Shetland Tenants Forum and all relevant SIC departments.
Councillor for the South Mainland and chairman of both SIC housing and the housing strategy steering group, Allison Duncan, said: “This is an absolutely crucial process which will determine the direction of housing provision in the isles over the next five years.
“It is an issue that affects everyone in Shetland, whether in private or publicly-provided housing. Everyone needs a roof over their heads, and we need to work out the very best way of accomplishing that.”
Public events will take place at the following venues, with informal discussions between 4pm (except Lerwick) and 7pm, and the meetings between 7pm and 8.30pm.
Wednesday 27th April, Carnegie Hall, Sandwick; Wednesday 4th May, Cullivoe Hall, Yell; Wednesday 11th May, Room 16, Islesburgh Community Centre, Lerwick (drop-in from 4.30pm); Wednesday 18th May, Scalloway Hall; Monday 23rd May, Brae Hall; Tuesday 31st May, Germatwatt Centre, Walls; and Monday 6th June, Symbister Hall, Whalsay.
The draft housing strategy can be accessed and the online survey completed at shetland.gov.uk/lhs or by telephone on (01595) 744376.
Paper surveys are available from local SIC community work offices or direct from housing.
SIC head of housing Anita Jamieson said: “We need folk to tell us what they think the priorities should be for housing in Shetland. This affects everyone, and there are urgent needs to be addressed here.
“This doesn’t mean we want folk to come to the special meetings about specific housing cases, asking for housing for their relatives or themselves, or to complain – the SIC housing office is available as always for things like that. This is all about what can help Shetland meet its housing needs in the future – the needs of the people and communities of Shetland.”
The SIC housing department can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone on (01595) 744360 or at Shetland Islands Council Housing Service, Department of Education and Social Care, 6 North Ness Business Park, Lerwick ZE1 0LZ.