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Caithness News Bulletins July 2004

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Tenants Asked For Their Views On Community Ownership Proposals

The Highland Council has opened a discussion forum on its website www.highland.gov.uk  to give council house tenants and other interested members of the public the opportunity to comment on the proposal being examined by the Council to join the Scottish Executive’s Community Ownership Programme. The forum will remain active until the Council meets on 28 October this year when it will formally decide the way forward. The forum will supplement the information contained in a newsletter that has been delivered to the homes of all 15,000 tenants in the Highlands outlining the issues involved in joining the Programme and the possible transfer of the council house stock to a not-for-profit landlord.

In her introduction to the discussion forum, Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chairman of the Housing and Social Work Committee, said: “For some time now we have all been acutely aware of the lack of affordable homes for rent and for low cost home ownership in the Highlands.  This could change. As a result of recent announcements made by the Executive and discussions with the Minister for Communities, we now have the opportunity to increase the number of new affordable houses. At the same time, we would be able to deliver significant improvements to the Council’s stock of 15,000 houses.  By joining the Community Ownership Programme, we stand to benefit from an extra £50 million over the next five years. The new money would double the current investment and help provide 1,000 extra affordable houses in the Highlands over the next five years. That level of extra housing would go a long way to help to meet the needs of people throughout the Highlands, who cannot find a house to rent or afford to buy at the moment.

“There is lot we need to think through and discuss and our tenants will be involved in that process. If the Council joined the Community Ownership Programme, our housing stock of 15,000 houses would transfer to a new, not-for-profit landlord. This would only happen if the majority of tenants voting in a ballot voted “yes” to transfer, though that vote is some time away yet.  Tenants would have a greater say in the running of their homes and would be represented on the management board of any new landlord or landlords. The new landlord would provide guarantees on rents and tenants’ rights would be protected, including the right to buy. Importantly, the Council existing housing debt would also be written off as part of the stock transfer.  The Council currently spends 45p of every £1 of rent paying off old housing debt. The new landlord would have a much greater ability to invest in housing stock and services. Before we decide anything, we need to know what tenants are thinking about the proposals and what questions people want to ask.”