Shetland Islands Council has agreed to extend its bridging finance arrangement with Hjaltland Housing Association, allowing it to go ahead with building 63 new homes in the next two years.
Following alterations to central government funding in 2008, the council agreed to support Hjaltland, enabling it to continue its house-building programme at that time.
Further government funding changes meant that, without the bridging loan, Hjaltland would have been unable to commit to building the 63 houses it has planned on the site of the old North Star nightclub in Lerwick, at Ladies Mire, Brae and at Strand, Tingwall.
The council described the funding package as an “innovative solution, demonstrating real partnership working” between Shetland’s two social landlords.
Hjaltland chief executive Bryan Leask said it was “really good news” and ensured the association could go ahead with building the houses, 11 of which it plans to sell as “shared equity” homes. The remainder will be made available for affordable rent.
“We are lucky that we have two organisations who can work so well together for the good of the community and the people of Shetland,” Mr Leask said. “Without the support of the council we would not have been able to continue with our development programme this year.”
Mr Leask said he could not divulge the value of the council’s bridging assistance, which was “commercially sensitive” because the association is still working on other aspects of the financial package.
Outgoing SIC political leader Josie Simpson said: “Working together and finding creative solutions is the best way forward to address the housing needs we face in Shetland.”
Meanwhile, at the SIC’s Full Council meeting on Wednesday, convener Sandy Cluness raised the idea of demolishing the council’s old housing department premises at Fort Road – right next to the North Star development – to make way for more housing.
Mr Leask said it was “a site we’ve been interested in for some time” since council staff moved out of the Fort Road office, and he was pleased at indications the council may be willing to sell.
Hjaltland already has over 600 houses in its portfolio and its plans to build more are designed to tackle a serious shortage of housing, particularly in and around Lerwick, which means there is a waiting list of around 1,000 people looking for houses.