The shortage of accommodation for workers could continue for the next 10 years, according to a recent report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Potential measures to tackle the serious shortfall are to be considered by members of the Shetland Community Planning Partnership, because lack of housing could affect business development.
The report forecasts that recent pressures on workers’ accommodation are set to continue for the next decade, unless new homes are built and more local people acquire skills in construction and engineering.
The research assessed the likely demand for housing and accommodation from a number of industries and the public sector, in the next 10 years. It found that despite the completion of the Shetland Gas Plant over the next few months, there will still be an ongoing need for accommodation in Shetland necessary to expand the workforce and support business growth. Businesses in Shetland and the public sector will still be constrained by a shortage of labour, in part, caused by accommodation shortages.
The report was commissioned to help determine what measures can be taken to increase the workforce and support jobs and business growth.
It found that recent pressures will not be shortlived. Although unmet demand for workers’ accommodation is projected to drop from a peak last year, when approximately 3,000 extra workers were in Shetland, accommodation will still be required for between 500 and 1,500 extra workers every year to 2024.
A key issue is the lack of availability of private housing to rent or buy. The report states that there is a requirement of between 24 to 70 housing units per year for the next five years for the anticipated incoming private sector workforce.
Similarly, there is a requirement for provision of 35 to 40 units of private housing to meet labour demand for the public sector over the same period. Additionally, at least 30 units will be required for a growing student population.
The report’s recommendations include encouraging the private sector to develop housing and worker accommodation in Shetland. Encouraging industry and training organisations to look at ways to support more local people into the construction and engineering sectors are also encouraged.
As well as looking at ways to reduce problems, the planning partnership will seek to make the most of any opportunities available.
HIE Shetland area manager Rachel Hunter said: “The shortage of accommodation in Shetland has no doubt held back economic growth and it is clear that there will be continuing pressure even after the completion of the Shetland Gas Plant. There will still be opportunities for the private sector in housing development and agencies in Shetland will be looking to work together to consider how we can help.”
The Shetland Worker Accommodation Report 2015, commissioned by HIE and undertaken by Steve Westbrook, AB Associates and Sandy Anderson is available to download at www.hie.co.uk/shetland-2015