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Highland Council Housing Business Plan 2004 - 2009 Pdf

25 February 05
Highland Council To Pilot Land Banking To Create More Affordable Houses
Highland Council Will Build 10 Million Fund
An innovative package to acquire land for affordable housing in the Highlands will help ease future housing pressures on rural communities, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said today.

Communities Scotland and Highland Council will pilot a land bank fund for future affordable housing needs for the area. More than 3 million sterling pound will be provided through Communities Scotland to buy land, while Highland Council will contribute land and investment to be raised from the discount on second and holiday home council tax.

Speaking ahead of the Rural Housing Service conference in Dunkeld, Mr Chisholm said: "Scotland has a diverse landscape and rural Scotland has distinct housing needs. The provision of affordable housing is a key issue for the sustainability of all our rural communities.

"Land supply is a major part of this, and it can certainly be frustrating when there is evidently a willingness to build, often with new and innovative designs, and yet there is sometimes little or no land available in the desired location."

"This partnership between Communities Scotland and Highland Council will be used to acquire sites for affordable housing for rent and for ownership. These sites will then be sold on to housing associations, individuals and the private sector, and the income received will be re-invested in further site purchases.

This new scheme will secure sites where land which could potentially be developed is at a premium and it will deliver a steady flow of sites for development through a facility which is financially self-sustaining after the initial start up costs. It will be interesting to follow the progress of this creative new initiative.

The scheme developed out of the work of the Rural Partnership for Change which identified that little land came on to the market in Highland, other than large estates or whole farm units, and that the development of affordable housing was highly dependent on the outcome of negotiation with landowners. The Partnership piloted a version of the scheme and this showed that such an approach could speed up the development process through actively seeking development sites through negotiation with owners.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chair of Highland Councils Housing and Social Work Committee, said: "I welcome the Ministers announcement for the first tranche of funding for the Councils land banking fund. We are committed to match funding from the Scottish Executive in order to land bank strategic sites, unlock their constraints and develop more affordable homes in the Highlands."

Bill Fernie the Caithness area chairman of Housing and Social Work said: "We have to find innovative solutions to housing problems and the main one is the shortage of houses that people can afford whether for purchase or for rent."   Highland Council has found itself in the position of having houses in many beautiful places and tenants have exercised their right to buy leaving the council with a shrinking number of houses but facing increasing demand.  This new land bank scheme will address one part of the problem but we are not resting on that.  A new Common Housing Register for Highland council and the other Social Landlords will make it easier to track who is waiting for a house.  The new register will begin to operate in 2006. At present people may register with several landlords making it difficult to assess the demand for housing accurately.  But with up to nine people waiting for every house available from the council something new needed to be done."

A recyclable fund of 10 million built up over the next couple of years will significantly increase our ability to secure potential sites and increase the delivery of new affordable housing.

Malcolm Chisholm added: "There is record investment in place and this innovative partnership is just one example of ensuring our housing policies meet the challenges rural Scotland faces.

"We are taking action and providing considerable investment to expand rural housing. 88 million sterling pound is being spent this financial year, funding over 1,400 new affordable homes, and our investment in Rural Home Ownership Grants this year has almost doubled to 2.6 million sterling pound.

"Our recently published planning policy for rural development sets out a clear vision for rural Scotland, emphasising the need for sensitively sited and well designed and good quality housing, and we will continue to support the delivery of improved housing for rural areas."

Earlier At The Scottish Parliament
October 2004
The Parliament was told today that the recently announced 1.2 billion targeted on affordable housing in the next three years showed the Executive recognised that a quality home for everyone should be a right rather than an aspiration.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said: "A quality home for everyone is a central aim of this Executive, because it goes right to the heart of quality of life issues.

"Good quality affordable housing is central in supporting policies for health, regeneration and economic growth.

"Over the next three years we will be spending a massive 1.2 billion on affordable homes for those who need them most.

"Our investment by 2008 in new housing will be 46 per cent above this year's level, allowing us to tackle both the acute demands for affordable housing in pressured areas and refurbish housing in poor quality neighbourhoods.

"We have raised our sights to a new three-year target for the supply of affordable homes - up from 18,000 to 21,500 - to support economic growth and make sure people have the choices that meet their needs.

"We will fund over 16,500 social rented homes over the next three years, the biggest social rented programme for many years. This will take hundreds of homeless people out of temporary accommodation into a permanent home, and move us towards giving all homeless people the entitlement to a permanent home by 2012. And it will give people on housing waiting lists a far better chance of getting the house they want.

"Our plans also include nearly 5,000 homes for low cost home ownership by 2008 to help meet the aspirations of hard working families and essential workers aspiring to owning a home of their own.

"Our funding will lead to the largest expansion in low-cost home ownership for a decade, and see the introduction of an innovative new programme to help people enter the property market by buying a part-share in a property which would otherwise be unaffordable."

The Minister opened a debate in the Scottish Parliament on improving the quality and availability of Scotland's Housing. The full text of his motion was:

"That the Parliament endorses the Scottish Executive's commitment to a 30 per cent increase in affordable housing provision by 2007-08 in order to increase the availability of social rented accommodation for homeless people, reduce pressure on waiting lists and help first-time buyers on to the housing ladder; welcomes the introduction of the Housing Quality Standard and the improvements in housing quality that are resulting from substantial community ownership and fuel poverty programmes; recognises the major achievements flowing from devolution for housing in Scotland, such as a modernised and single tenancy in the social rented sector, progressive homelessness legislation and the development of tenant participation and rights, and looks forward to the forthcoming Housing Bill which will raise standards in the private housing sector and strengthen the rights of private sector tenants."

The previous Minister Margaret Curran announced details of the affordable housing investment on 30 September 2004, in the wake of the Scottish Budget publication.

7 July 2004
A comprehensive picture of Scots housing needs was unveiled

The analysis shows that with housebuilding outstripping household growth, Scotland has not experienced the same house price inflation as England, especially London.

However, it highlights problems around local house price 'hot spots' like Edinburgh and Inverness, and continuing issues of homelessness.

In addition, land values are rising, potentially indicating problems in the planning system in delivering new developments.

Affordable Housing Review

In response to a detailed analysis of the Scottish housing market, published today, Communities Minister Margaret Curran outlined an initial package of measures.

These include innovative approaches to help people get on the property ladder, affordability targets, and allocation of the 20m, previously set aside, to help increase housing availability in hotspots.

Ms Curran said:

"The way the Scottish housing market works affects all our lives, and the risk is that it is the most vulnerable who lose out as prices rise.

"That's why I called for this analysis - to establish the true state of the market in Scotland.

"It shows that although the market as a whole isn't as overheated as in England, there are still real hot-spots and challenges for us. We need both to provide social rented housing, and do more to ensure first time buyers can get a foot on the property ladder.

"To meet immediate demand, I am today allocating 20 million to relieve pressured areas and test out new approaches to make it easier to rent or get on the property ladder.

"We're already building or refurbishing 6,000 affordable homes a year. Last month, we announced a 600 million package which could deliver 10,000 new affordable homes in Edinburgh. And I have concluded that Councils should be able to use new borrowing rules introduced in April to invest in new affordable housing.

"But this is just the start. Looking further ahead, we are already looking at overhauling the planning system so that it can react faster to needs. And we will be working with local authorities as well as the private sector in testing new models of housing ownership."

The 20 million will be used for:

  • New housing projects to increase bought and rented housing supply in pressured areas like Aberdeenshire, Inverness, the Borders and the wider Edinburgh housing market (6.85 million).

  • Creating 'landbanks' -targetted purchasing of land in fast-growing areas so housing associations can build in the future (8.42 million).

  • Pilot shared equity programme in Inverness, where the buyer only needs to buy half the house, with the housing provider retaining the other half share (1.6. million).

  • Acceleration of existing affordable housing schemes in pressured areas (2.13 million).

  • Support for local authorities who want to establish cash incentive schemes for tenants to buy private sector housing (1 million).

The Minister continued: "Work on the development of affordability targets for Scotland and its diverse housing market areas will be taken forward over the next year. These will be used to indicate whether these housing market areas are functioning effectively and how they can be used effectively to act as triggers for action.

"And we are looking at ways to expand the supply of affordable housing for sale and rent in Scotland through discussions with the house builders. For example, we are working closely with Homes for Scotland on ways to expand the supply of Starter Homes for sale on larger, planned sites in areas under pressure or, where targetted funding of RSLs can leverage in siginficant additonal housing overall.

Finally, the Minister also indicated her intention to ensure local plans and structure plans are integrated with local housing strategies, that they are up to date that the approval system streamlined and speeded up.

Commenting on the Minister's statement, David Knight, the Chairman of Homes for Scotland, which represents the house building industry in Scotland, said:

"We welcome the Minister's recognition that housing for sale is an essential part of solving the problem of providing affordable new homes for people in Scotland. Low cost home ownership is an important part of the overall housing market and the industry is ready to work with the Executive to improve the supply of new homes in all market sectors."

The Review shows how Scotland's housing has not experienced the same price inflation as London or England primarily because Scotland's house builders are producing more houses per head. However, it also highlights where there may be problems around local house price 'hot spots'. In addition, independent research reveals a mixed pattern of shortages and surpluses of affordable housing (social rented as well as house for sale at below market prices) across the country.

The analysis of the numbers of houses required used two measures. The first looked at requirements across local authorities. This found that, in total, up to 7,000 affordable homes may be required each year, for the next ten years across almost half of Scotland's local authorities. The second measure looked at requirements across larger housing market areas. These are defined as areas that households living in one local authority area may move to and still remain within both commuting distance of work and other amenities. This measure found that around 4,000 affordable homes may be required each year.

Both sets of analyses will enable the Executive, in partnership with local authorities and other public and private sector housing providers, to target future resources. The findings of our review will be taken into account in the forthcoming Spending Review.

The following low cost home ownership options will be considered:

  • Shared equity schemes where the buyer only has to buy part of the house with housing associations having a share in the remainder.

  • Reduced price purchase. Grants for selected purchasers to buy new houses from developers at below the market price.

  • Providing subsidy for single new houses in rural areas, to replace the existing rural home ownership grant scheme.

  • Equity loans/ Homebuy scheme. This would be a new scheme in Scotland. Grants would be provided towards the purchase of the house by those qualifying for assistance.

  • Cash incentive schemes. Grants would be provided to existing tenants in designated pressured areas to buy in the private sector and thereby release houses for social rent.