An unexpected funding boost has been given to the SIC to bring much needed affordable housing to the isles.
The Scottish government has announced this week that £14.3 million will be allocated to the council over the next three years.
In 2018-19, £4.291 million will be allocated in grant funding to Shetland Islands Council – rising to £4.855 million in 2019-20 and £5.179 million in 2020-21.
Housing manager for the SIC, Anita Jamieson said they had been working on the understanding of about £4 million over the next three years.
The new figure equates to about 175 houses.
Ms Jamieson said: “This is good news and follows on the Scottish government’s commitment to increase the supply of affordable housing. This means that we will have the resources to scale up the programme in future years in partnership with Hjaltland Housing Association. We have already submitted a programme in excess of the previous minimum assumptions.
“Alongside the main social rented funding we are also exploring other funding streams for rural and island housing with a couple of local groups. We hope this will lead to housing projects that can help sustain more remote areas where there is less housing pressure but still a housing need.”
Members of the SIC’s development committee were given a housing update on Monday, before the government announcement.
Councillors heard between April 2016 and March 2017, 586 new applications were received and registered on the housing register – up by 24 on the previous year. At March 2017 there 661 applications on the housing register – down 78 from March last year.
Considering the council housing stock the “over-riding demand” is for single person accommodation in Lerwick, members were told.
The number of homeless applications has fallen from more than 140 in 2014/15 to just short of 120 in 2016/17.
However, the housing service is looking to tackle the length of time people are in temporary accommodation as it rose to an average of almost 500 days in 2016/17, compared to 300 in 2013/14. The council has 140 homes for temporary accommodation.
Announcing the funding, housing minister Kevin Stewart said this would support the government’s ambitious commitment of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.
He said: “We are ensuring that Shetland has homes that are high-quality, efficient and affordable.
“Today, we are announcing to local authorities how much money they’ll have to invest in affordable housing until the end of this Parliament. It means they can plan these new affordable homes now – with the certainty that the funding will increase year-on-year.
“This is also an important signal to the house-building sector in Scotland and demonstrates our commitment to the industry and the estimated 14,000 jobs our affordable housing supply programme supports each year.”