A NOTABLE first was scored in the Borders on Tuesday when Scottish housing minister Keith Brown came to Galashiels for the official launch of the construction of 26 affordable houses.
The development, along with 25 flats due to begin in Traquair Road, Innerleithen, later this year, is the first to be provided under a new financing model – the National Housing Trust (NHT).
Led by the Scottish Government and its capital borrowing wing the Scottish Futures Trust, it will see Peebles-based builders Tweed Homes and Scottish Borders Council joining forces to fund the purchase of the homes which will be available for affordable rent.
The NHT aims to increase choice and opportunities for those searching for a home.
Before cutting the ribbon at William Law Gardens on the site of the former Balnakiel home for people with learning disabilities, Mr Brown said: “I am delighted that our creative, innovative NHT funding model, the first of its kind in the UK, has borne fruit. It will help address the demand for much needed affordable housing across the country.
“NHT will deliver dozens of new homes in the Borders, which will be made available for rent at below market rates. Importantly, they have been secured for very little taxpayers’ money as well as supporting jobs and stimulating the local construction sector.
“Clearly the NHT has inspired confidence. Councils, developers and housing associations have risen to the challenge and embraced this approach as one that can help ease housing pressures locally.
“There is no doubt these are difficult times, which is why we are supporting the economy by focusing on job creation with targeted capital investment, such as through the NHT.
“But the UK Government must also act and bring forward a new, cost effective programme of infrastructure investment to create new jobs and new capital assets which will further support growth over the short and long term.
“What Scotland really needs is access to all the key levers of economic growth, such as borrowing powers and corporation tax, to enhance investment and create more jobs across the Scottish economy.”
After the ceremony, Councillor Ron Smith, SBC’s executive member for social work (children and strategic services) said: “We are delighted to have begun the first NHT development in Scotland here in the Borders.
“By working with a local developer and a local housing provider we are able to provide much needed affordable accommodation and help stimulate the Borders economy.
“This agreement is an important one which will make a huge contribution to the many families who are looking for affordable homes in the Borders. I have no doubt this scheme will be a huge success and will prove a blueprint that other authorities in Scotland will want to follow.”
Andy Pearson, managing director of Tweed Homes added: “I am extremely grateful for the support provided by the Scottish Futures Trust, SBC and the Scottish Government over the last two years to ensure that the Borders was at the very forefront of this unique opportunity to secure affordable housing and 200 construction jobs.”
As revealed in TheSouthern last week, the deal, which will see all 51 homes completed within 18 months, involves the creation of a so-called special purpose vehicle company – Tweedside LLP – which will deliver the new stock.
A partnership of SBC, Tweed Homes and Scottish Futures Trust, it has already raised £6.25million to finance the project, with SBC providing £4.05million from a prudential loan underwritten by a guarantee from the Scottish Government. Private investment of £2.2million has come from Tweed Homes with the construction phase funded by the Clydesdale Bank.
Under the scheme, tenants will have the opportunity to purchase their home after five years by setting aside £50 on a voluntary basis. Tweed Homes will top up this contribution by 50 per cent of the savings lodged as a deposit towards the tenant purchasing their home.
The homes will be sold after five or 10 years with sitting tenants getting first refusal. Proceeds from sales will see the council fully recompensed for its investment.
Jonathan Fair, chief excutive of the private house building industry body Homes for Scotland, who also attended Tuesday’s ceremony, told us: “The NHT is making a significant difference to the companies involved in delivering much needed new homes for the people of Scotland, enabling them to retain vital jobs, skills and capacity that might other be under considerable pressure.”
For information on the NHT initiative, go to www.scotland.gov.uk/nht