Small step to address housing shortage as tenants move into Burnbank homes

The first tenants are to move into new council houses at Burnbank in the north end of Lerwick on Tuesday.

The SIC’s housing service has built 22 new properties, a mixture of one-bedroom houses and flats and two- and three-bedroom homes, at what used to be known as Hoofields.

Local construction firm DITT built and completed the homes on time. The Scottish Government provided a £600,000 grant towards the scheme’s total £2.2 million cost.

Earlier this month SIC councillor Allison Duncan voiced his worry at the lack of homes in the isles. For a number of years the waiting list for social housing has been between 800 and 1,000.

Mr Duncan told this newspaper research suggested between 50 and 70 homes needed to be built every year for the next decade.

But hamstrung by a colossal £40 million housing debt, built up during the first oil boom in the 1970s, it is unlikely the SIC will be able to build many more itself.

This newspaper’s petition calling on the UK and Scottish governments to clear the council’s crippling debt has attracted 2,056 signatures to date.

SIC housing chief Anita Jamieson said the mix of properties was designed to match the need for smaller properties throughout Shetland. That is viewed as particularly important in the wake of housing benefit changes and the introduction of the “bedroom tax”.

The latter has resulted in around 200 households being penalised for “under-occupying” a home. But local authorities throughout the country have protested that there is a dearth of smaller accommodation to move such tenants into.

Ms Jamieson said: “These 22 houses are a very important step for us in meeting the continuing need for housing in Shetland.

“Half of the properties have been offered to existing social rented tenants affected by the housing benefit changes, with the remainder allocated to waiting list, transfer and homeless applicants – in line with our agreed letting plan.

“We now have plans to work in partnership with Hjaltland Housing Association to develop more housing in this area.”

Social services committee chairman Cecil Smith said he was “delighted” the Burnbank project was reaching a conclusion.

Mr Smith said: “The contractor has done a great job in completing these houses to a high standard with modern facilities and good energy efficiency.”

Hjaltland plans to build a further 26 homes in the area, with work anticipated to start later this year.


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