Welcome for £10m affordable housing boost

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NO sooner had Councillor Neil Calvert, in his valedictory assessment of Scottish Borders Council’s budget for 2012/13, bemoaned the lack of new affordable housing in the region, than spirits were raised by an announcement of major investment in the sector from the Scottish Government.

The former bank manager, who has been the council’s finance spokesperson for nine years, regretfully revealed on Tuesday morning that only 197 new households had been added to SBC’s Council Tax register in the past 12 months.

Not only did this mean less than anticipated income for the cash-strapped local authority, but the lack of new affordable housing was, he claimed, a key disincentive to keeping people of working age in a region – a prerequisite of any future economic recovery.

But in the afternoon came the announcement from Scottish housing minister Keith Brown that an extra £10million would be invested in new affordable homes in Scotland “to help support construction jobs and the wider economy”.

The money, from the national cash settlement to Holyrood from Westminster, would provide “high quality, sustainable homes for rent”.

“Councils and housing association funding streams will be brought together into one budget. Each council will allocate funding based on three-year resource planning assumptions in their area through to March, 2015,” said the minister,

The announcement was commended by SBC’s social work director Andrew Lowe whose department, though not a housing provider after the stock transfer to the Scottish Borders Housing Association in 2003, is responsible for housing strategy and homelessness.

Mr Lowe said: “Needless to say, the additional funding for much-needed affordable housing is warmly welcomed. I also welcome the three-year planning resource assumption and for the Borders this should be good news given our excellent delivery track record.

“The only disappointment is the decision to pay registered social landlords on completion of projects. This may place on them financial risks they will find challenging to sustain.”