the region’s largest social landlord is set to swap homes with another housing association in a bid to increase the proportion of its properties which meet nationally-set standards.
TheSouthern can reveal that Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) and Waverley Housing have submitted plans to the Scottish Government for the innovative exchange of houses as part of a stragegy to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS).
The scheme will focus in the first instance on the Stonefield estate in Hawick which was tranferred to SBHA by Scottish Borders Council in 2003.
SBHA owns most of the 240 mainly one-bedroom flats which were built in the 1970s, while Waverley, formed in the late 1980s, has acquired around 30 of the units via the tenants choice transfer scheme.
Today, 148 of the SBHA properties lie empty, along with 18 of the Waverley stock.
News of the impending house swap is revealed by the watchdog Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) which has sought proposals over how stock can be brought up to SHQS by the deadline of 2014 set by the Scottish Government. SBHA, particularly, has some way to go. Last year, only 20 per cent of its 5,874 units met the standard, in contrast to Waverley, which had 80 per cent of its 1,534 properties satisfying the criteria.
In its latest assessment of SBHA, the regulator states: “SBHA has completed a further stock condition survey and has used this to review its projections for meeting the standard.
“An option included in its strategy concerns a possible exchange of homes with Waverley which is currently under consideration by the Scottish Government.”
Asked by TheSouthern for an explanation of the proposal, Mrs Julia Mulloy and Margaret Ross, chief executives of SBHA and Waverley respectively, issued a joint statement.
“The regeneration of Stonefield is a regional priority. Waverley and SBHA have been working closely together for the last few years to progress this and have submitted a joint proposal to the Scottish Government requesting the swapping of some of the large number of empty homes on the estate to allow us to improve or reconfigure some homes and demolish others.
“We believe this proposal would allow both organisations to improve the quality of life for current tenants and residents of the estate and provide a high quality of housing for new and future tenants of the area.
“If a positive decision is received from the Scottish Government, we will be talking to tenants and residents about the next steps at a very early stage.”
Pressed for clarification, Mrs Mulloy said up to 22 swaps of empty homes would take place to allow demolition and regeneration.
“At this stage we expect it to be confined to Stonefield ... if a positive decision is received, we will provide more details on the arrangements once we have met with local residents to discuss the plans,” said Mrs Mulloy.
But she ruled out the possibility of sitting tenants finding themselves with a different landlord. “This would not be allowed to happen,” she insisted.
And she said “considerable progress” had already been made in SBHA meeting the SHQS across the region with 26 per cent of homes now complying.
“Across the Borders, more than 500 tenants’ homes will have SHQS improvements carried out during this financial year. In addition, 55 per cent of kitchens, 74 per cent of bathrooms and 77 per cent of heating systems in our homes now meet the SHQS, reflecting the investment we have made since the stock transfer of 2003.
“We’ve recently completed major programmes in Ancrum, Hawick and Galashiels and are currently on site in Jedburgh, Peebles, Galashiels and smaller outlying villages.”