Council loan will help build 163 homes

UP to 163 affordable homes could be created across the region thanks to £13million worth of loans from Scottish Borders Council.

Eildon Housing Association, Berwickshire Housing Association and Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) could benefit from the loan facility, should the Scottish Government give the go-ahead to the council to borrow the money which it will then lend out.

Councillors agreed to provide loans to the three registered social landlords (RSLs) at the full council meeting last week.

At the meeting, Andrew Lowe, director of social work, emphasised that all the council’s costs in getting the overall loan from the Public Works Loan Board would be covered by the three organisations.

Eildon Housing Association has indicated that it will use the loan facility to build 64 new homes, including eight in Newcastleton and Stichill, 12 in Lauder, 16 in Peebles and 20 in Easter Langlee.

SBHA will build 44 new homes for social rent on the Stonefield Estate in Hawick in three phases and also redevelop 10 houses on the site of the former Deanfield sheltered housing complex in Hawick.

Berwickshire Housing Association has proposed to use the money to help deliver 55 new units in Eyemouth and Duns.

Mr Lowe said that the loans to the RSLs would also be a boost to the construction industry.

He estimated that up to 600 jobs could be created over the period of construction of the homes.

Mr Lowe said: “This has been a long time coming and is an innovative injection into house building.”

Councillor Stuart Bell said that the Westminster Government’s proposed ‘bedroom tax’ would lead to increased demand for affordable homes in the area.

From April, the new Welfare Reform Act will change how housing benefit is paid to families, with unused bedrooms in social housing subject to an under-occupation charge.

The Government estimates that across the country 660,000 households will see their benefits cut.

Councillor Bell said: “The ‘bedroom tax’ will have a significant impact on poor and low paid families in the Scottish Borders,”

He added: “There will be an increased demand for small and affordable homes.”

Councillor Catriona Bhatia added: “These houses are desperately needed and this is very welcome and very innovative.”

However, a warning came from the council’s head of housing, David Cressey, who said that the 163 homes would still not bring the number of homes built in the region up to the council’s target.

He said: “Next year we won’t hit the house building target unless extra schemes come forward.”