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Caithness News Bulletins June 2004

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Highland Council Housing Information - Caithness  

The Highland Council is to consult with its 15,000 Council house tenants after agreeing to investigate joining the Community Ownership Programme, which would see the Council’s ownership and management of the housing stock transfer to a not-for-profit landlord.

By joining the Programme, the Council will be eligible to receive additional funding of £50 million over the next five years through the Scottish Executive’s Regeneration Fund, which will help them to tackle the lack of affordable housing to rent or buy in the area by providing more than 1,000 affordable new houses.

Meeting in Inverness, Councillors were assured that tenants will be fully consulted before the Council considers joining the Community Ownership Programme at a meeting on 28 October. A newsletter will be sent to all tenants soon explaining the proposal.

Councillors were advised that tenants could have more direct say in the running of any new social landlord, being represented on the board alongside Council and independent representatives. The new landlord would also offer guarantees on rents, and tenants’ existing rights such as the right to buy would be protected.

The move to Community Ownership would unlock money that could be invested in improvements to the homes of existing tenants.   The Council’s housing debt – the money borrowed to build and improve the houses over many years would then be written off.

During the discussion, members sought further information on a number of issues and it was agreed that a seminar be held for members to examine these in detail.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chairman of the Council’s Housing and Social Work Committee, said: “I am pleased the Council has agreed to consider this important issue. We have brought this before the Council because of the clear need for more affordable housing in the Highlands.  Transfer to community ownership has the potential to unlock significant new investment so that new, affordable homes can be built .

“At the same time, the Council’s housing debt of £175 million is written off and more monies can be channeled into modernizing existing homes, while rents are kept at affordable levels.”

Councillor Sheena Slimon, the Council’s housing spokesperson, said: “I would like to assure tenants that we recognize how important this issue is to them and we will ensure they are fully briefed on what the transfer would mean to them before they are asked to vote.

She said the ballot of tenants was unlikely to take place for another two years.

See Highland Council Minutes 24 June 2004 for further information