Housebuyers told to mind the gap

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Work started this week on a long-standing gap site in Innerleithen High Street which will provide three one-bedroom affordable homes.

An agreement was reached with developers Waverley Tweed Ltd at the end of last year for Scottish Borders Council to acquire the three flats, in addition to a further six two-bedroom properties at the developer’s adjacent Waverley Road site, where work is also due to start soon.

The latter acquisition has been facilitated through Scottish Borders Council’s National Housing Trust Initiative, with limited liability partnership Bridge Homes taking ownership of the houses.

The Scottish Government contributed £120,000 from its Affordable Housing Supply Programme towards the purchase of the High Street properties.

Councillor Frances Renton, SBC’s executive member for social work and housing, joined ward councillors and representatives of the Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust and the developer for a sod cutting on the site on Tuesday to mark the start of work.

Councillor Renton said: “I am delighted that this site is now being developed and will provide three affordable flats for rent and will help improve the quality and appearance of the High Street.

“The council’s investment into the National Housing Trust Initiative is continuing to provide affordable homes for rent across the Borders and we are on track to deliver almost 150 affordable homes through this scheme by the end of 2019, which includes the six in Waverley Road, Innerleithen.

“This will contribute towards meeting the housing needs of local people and also help stimulate the local economy.”

The High Street properties are aimed at assisting people with priority needs. Those in Waverley Road are aimed at helping people who aspire to buy a home to access a high-quality property at a below market rent, with the possibility of buying it after a minimum of five years.

Alex Neil MSP, cabinet secretary for social justice, communities and pensioners’ rights, said: “Housing is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s commitment to a more prosperous country, and these new homes in Innerleithen will not only help breathe new life into the High Street, but will also provide welcome employment opportunities.

“The additional units being constructed through the National Housing Trust by Scottish Borders Council demonstrate one of a range of mechanisms we have introduced to help create more affordable homes, and the Scottish Government is pleased to support the local authority on this initiative.”

Keith Burns, director of Waverley Tweed Ltd, added: “We are delighted to begin construction on what is an important development in the centre of Innerleithen.

“The High Street phase will provide high-quality affordable housing, while at the same time will infill a gap site which has been a blight on the High Street for many years.

The council agreed to borrow up to £18.8million from the Public Works Loan Board at a low interest rate to then on-lend to Bridge Homes to deliver the affordable homes.

To date, 10 new homes for mid-market rent have been provided through Bridge Homes, in Ayton and Galashiels.

A contract has been completed with Miller Homes for the acquisition of 13 two-bed properties at Violet Bank in Peebles and with Crudens for a further eight new homes in Denholm.

Negotiations are also taking place with a number of developers with a view to acquiring homes on various sites across the region.