Councillors call for commitment on building affordable houses

Shetland Islands Council must ensure that a greater number of affordable houses are built in 2019/20 than in the previous year if it is to meet its aims around attracting professionals and reversing a decline in population.

That was the message delivered by members of the SIC development committee on Monday as members discussed the achievements made in the past year and outlined plans for the next three.

Calls were made for the former Anderson High School site at the Knab in Lerwick to be developed for houses quickly.

Councillors heard that of the 62 houses built in 2018/19 just 16 were classified as affordable housing. A yearly target of 100 houses per year has been set by the council and the authority did not achieve its aims, both in terms of affordable housing and overall.

Director of development services Neil Grant told the chamber that the number of affordable houses built in the previous financial year was “way short of the mark”.

But Mr Grant added that there were 316 houses in the pipeline, including some yet to be built by the council at the Knab and by the Hjaltland Housing Association at Staney Hill.

Chairman Alastair Cooper said that a lack of new affordable housing was “the one thing that disappoints me” in the report for 2018/19.

“I think that’s as low as it’s been for a long, long while … We need more housing units if we’re going to attract young people to live and work here”, he said.

Mr Cooper then called on the council to push ahead with plans for the Knab site.

“We need to actually start the Knab scheme and get it working reasonably quickly so that we can get these people in quite quickly and get Shetland ahead,” he said.

The chairman received backing from Shetland West councillor Theo Smith who said that he wanted the project to move ahead quicker than Hjaltland’s Staney Hill scheme.

Mr Cooper asked that a chart detailing timescales for which the council can be “held accountable to” be produced ahead of a development committee meeting in November.


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