Before the surprise announcement of a snap general election, we were all preparing for the local government one which is being held today.
While big issues such as Brexit and our constitutional position are likely to continue to dominate debate, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the local issues that really matter to us.
To all candidates standing to be Scottish Borders councillors, either for the first time or those seeking re-election, I would ask them to think very carefully about the issue of housing.
Good quality housing is a fundamental right and a basic building block for a decent and well-functioning society. It is about much more than simply shelter – without a secure, appropriate home we struggle to bring up our children, help them get educated, hold down a job, contribute to our communities and care for our older citizens.
While local authority housing has not existed in this region for more than 10 years now, Scottish Borders Council still has a central role in ensuring that the housing system in this area works effectively. That might be through the role of the planning system, actions to address issues such as fuel poverty, or through funding services to help our population live healthy, safe lives in our own homes as we get older.
We at Eildon Housing Association, along with other housing associations operating in the Borders, have a key role to play working in partnership with the council and elected members. Collectively, we provide homes for about one in four households in this region and we also supply a range of essential services to help our communities meet their needs – such as the award-winning Borders Care and Repair service.
Eildon Housing Association is planning to build more than 750 new homes over the next few years. These high-quality, sustainable properties will be spread across the Borders and, as well as meeting housing need in our communities, will inject many millions of pounds into the local economy and generate hundreds of jobs.
With the right level of support and partnership working with those who are seeking election, we can achieve even more.
We have the vision to help improve our communities, attract significant inward investment, bolster our local economy and make a difference to the lives of countless households across the Borders.
We need those seeking election to have the courage to support the change that will bring about this investment and to have the vision to help shape our communities to be vibrant and resilient for the future.
I would ask candidates to make housing a key issue today – and begin working with us tomorrow to support the work we do across our communities.