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Housing Information For Caithness
Archived News 2005

Housing Index

Community Pages

8 December 05
New Telephone Helpline People With Housing Difficulties

A new telephone advice line aimed at people in the Highlands who are having housing difficulties, at risk of losing their home or who are homeless is now available in the Highlands.
The freephone number is 0808 801 0804.
The Highland Homeless Advice Line is being run by Citizens Advice Direct, a member of Scotland's Citizens Advice Bureau network that has already pioneered telephone advice in Glasgow with great success.  As well as help and information on housing issues, the advice line will help callers on related matters such as debt, benefits and employment.  Every year more people in the Highlands have no where to live, last year 2,050 households applied as homeless to Highland Council.

16 November 05
SAMH Responds To Homelessness Consultation:


15 November 05
Right To Buy Council Houses Suspended In Pressure Areas
Caithness and Sutherland Not Affected

The right to buy a council or housing association rented house is being suspended in many Highland communities for five years to safeguard the bank of affordable housing in these "pressured" areas.

The Scottish Executive has agreed that Highland Council can safeguard some rented houses in the following ~pressured areas :

* all communities in the Badenoch & Strathspey Area.
* all communities in the Inverness Area except the estates of Merkinch and Hilton.
* all communities in the Lochaber Area except Kinlochleven; the Plantation estate and the three streets of Carn Dearg; The Corries and Polmona in Claggan.
* all communities in the Nairn Area.
* all communities in the Ross and Cromarty Area except Alness, Aultbea, Balintore and Milton.
* all communities in the Skye and Lochalsh Area.

Housing in Caithness or Sutherland is not covered by the designation.

The Council applied to the Scottish Executive following extensive consultation.

Pressured area designation means that tenants who took up a tenancy with the Council, or with an affected housing association, on or after 30 September 2002 in these designated areas have, from today, their Right to Buy (RTB) suspended for five years, i.e. until November 2010, whilst the designation is in place. This includes tenants who were given their tenancy through a transfer or mutual exchange or, in some cases, succession.

Council tenants whose tenancy started before 30 September 2002 will still be able to buy their home, as will those who don't live in the designated areas.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chairman of The Highland Council's Housing and Social Work Committee, said: "This designation has been granted because of the severe shortage of affordable housing in many parts of the Highlands. Although more housing association rented housing is being built in partnership with the Council and Communities Scotland, it's not nearly enough to replace the Council housing that has been sold through the "Right to Buy".

"Communities have consistently told us that tackling this shortage should be one of our highest priorities. We are working hard with our housing partners to build new affordable homes across the Highlands but the challenge is enormous so I welcome this decision by the Scottish Executive."

A small number of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association and Lochaber Housing Association tenants (who would have otherwise been eligible to buy) are also affected and are unable to buy their rented housing association homes through the Right to Buy. In general, other housing association tenants do not have the Right to Buy.

The Council requires to re-apply to the Scottish Executive in five years time to renew the designation if it considers that there is still a significant shortage of affordable housing.

There are a number of different ways that the Council and housing associations can help tenants to become home owners through low-cost home ownership schemes such as Homestake and rural home ownership grants (RHOGs). The Highland Council and our housing partners will continue to support all tenants, including those who have their Right to Buy suspended, to access these alternatives and become home owners.

The Council and affected housing associations will also be informing their tenants through their forthcoming newsletters.

2 November 05

Highland agencies have reaffirmed their commitment to staging a major housing fair to showcase house building design and technology in the area. It had been considered that a Housing Fair might be held in 2007 to coincide with Highland 2007 - the year that Scotland celebrates Highland culture - as a main feature of the Six Cities Festival of Creative Design. However, it has been agreed that more time is needed to do full justice to the event and that 2009, when the second Six Cities Festival is proposed, is a more realistic target date.

Mike Greaves, The Highland Council's Head of Development and Strategy, has advised partners that the realistic conclusion of recent discussions about organising a Highland Housing Fair was that there was insufficient time to stage an event the Highlands could be proud of. A five-year lead in time was the norm.

He said: "We remain committed to organising and implementing a Highland Housing Fair and there will be an opportunity at the second Six Cities Festival in 2009 to do just that. The challenge is very much still alive."

Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of the Council's Sustainable Development Select Committee, said: "There is an enthusiasm within Highland to take the Highland Housing Fair forward. It would provide an excellent opportunity to ~showcase~ both the existing and developing good practice within our Area and demonstrate the very real commitment which exists to innovative sustainable construction and design in the Highlands. We are aware how successful such events have been in Finland and this would provide a first class promotional platform for the Highlands."

The idea of the housing fair is taken from Finland, where there is an annual fair held in a different community each year. It is the biggest outdoor event in Finland with several hundred thousand visitors, locals, tourists, architects and other design/building professionals in attendance. The plan in Highland is to stage an event in the autumn, lasting a month, which will showcase modern Highland design and technology, including the scheme's lay out and environmental features, innovative housing designs and modern interior designs.

The fair will be situated in the Inverness area as the main gateway into the Highlands to maximise industry involvement and visitor numbers. A site of several hectares comprising 15-20 houses along with a tented exhibition and visitor facilities will be required.

17 October 05
During October every household in the two Community Council areas that make up the south-east Caithness Initiative at the Edge area will be given the opportunity to take part in a housing survey to establish the housing needs and views of the people who live there.

The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) has been asked to carry out the survey by the south-east Caithness Initiative at the Edge Area Steering Group, Dunbeath and Berriedale Community Council and Latheron’ Lybster and Clyth Community Council. Every household in south-east Caithness will receive a questionnaire from the HSCHT, the results from which are expected to provide a much clearer understanding of the different kinds of housing problems being experienced locally.

The survey will help to clarify whether any new houses are required to meet local needs, and if so what kind of houses and housing options are needed, how many and where they should be located. The survey is also designed to help clarify the level of local need for repairs, improvements and adaptations to existing homes. Free professional advice and grant assistance will be available to help tackle housing condition and heating cost issues identified.

However, the questionnaire is not just aimed at those who have a current housing need. It is intended to give every household an opportunity to express their views on local housing issues and their housing aspirations for their local areas. A separate questionnaire will also be sent out to every owner of a vacant, holiday or second home in the area to gauge an owner’s interest in improving their property, potentially with grant assistance, and in leasing it, either directly or through the Council or local housing association, to a local household in housing need.

Only Trust staff will see the returned questionnaires and all information provided will be treated confidentially although the numbers of overall responses to each question will form the basis of a report by the Trust which will be presented to the two Community Councils and the Initiative at the Edge Steering Group at the beginning of December.

Di Alexander, the Trust’s Development Manager said, “the Trust is just completing a similar survey of another Initiative at the Edge area in the Highlands - Glenelg and Arnisdale - which got a very good public response. We hope and believe that the results of both surveys will give the local communities - and the various agencies and housing organisations whose responsibility it is to assist them – the information they need to be able to bring new and additional housing opportunities and improvements to the households that need them.”

Eric Larnach, Local Development Officer for the south-east Caithness Initiative at the Edge area said, “This is a very important project, which has genuine potential to help our whole area. The availability of good quality, affordable housing is essential if we are to be able to maintain and develop thriving rural communities throughout south-east Caithness. I hope as many questionnaires will be returned as possible so that we can use the information to secure the additional housing resources that the area needs.

Anyone seeking further information on the survey is invited to contact Di Alexander on 01463 233548 or Eric Larnach on 01593 731455.

17 September 05
Calling All Caithness Highland Council Tenants
You Are Invited To a Meeting In the Band Room, Thurso Town Hall
Thursday 29 September 7.30pm

The meeting is to try and form an independent tenants association with the following aims
1 Work together on local projects to improve our area
2. Make sure our opinions are heard locally and nationally.
3. Work on anti-social behaviour together.
4. Tenant awareness.  Find out how our rent money is spent.  what sock transfer will do to our futures.
In attendance will be Carol Elliot  - Tenant Participation Officer, Tony white Principal Housing Officer, Nigel Slater - Highland Tenants Federation

30 August 05
Two Caithness Women Join New Housing Association Board

Councillor Katrina MacNab From Pulteneytown Ward and Andi Wakeman, Watten former director of Pentland Housing In Thurso are two of the 15 new board members. The Highland Council announced today (Tuesday 30 August) the make up of the 15-strong Board of a new landlord for the Highlands, to be developed to take over ownership of the current Council housing stock under its housing stock transfer proposals.  The Board of the new landlord will be made up of five Highland Councillors; five tenants; and five independent members.  The five Highland Council Board members were confirmed by the Council on 23 June 2005 as Councillors Katrina MacNab, (Pulteneytown, Wick), Brian Murphy (Fort William North), Drew Miller, (Portree), Helen Carmichael, (Beauly and Strathglass) and Stuart Black, (Strathspey North-East).

19 May 05
Members of The Highland Council's Housing and Social Work Committee on  18 May 2005 agreed to take action to ease the shortage of affordable housing in many parts of the Highlands.

They agreed to seek permission from the Scottish Executive to designate parts of Highland as "pressured area status" thus suspending the Right to Buy for 5 years of council tenants who have new tenancies which were started on or after 30th September, 2002.

Designation of pressured area status helps to ensure that social rented housing continues to be available in areas where housing supply does not meet need and where the Right to Buy could otherwise lead to serious shortages.

The areas that the Council will apply to the Scottish Executive for ~pressured area~ status are those which are experiencing significant pressure on their housing stock with a significant shortage of affordable rented housing and include:
~ All communities in Badenoch and Strathspey, rural Inverness, Inverness town and Culloden (excluding the estates of Merkinch and Hilton), Nairn town and rural Nairn,Skye and Lochalsh.

~ All communities in Lochaber are also included excluding Kinlochleven, and Fort William is included excluding Plantation and the following streets in Claggan ~ Carn Dearg, The Corries and Polmona.
~ In Easter Ross all communities are included except Alness, Balintore and Milton; and in Wester Ross all communities are included except Aultbea.

An indicative number of Council houses covered by the proposed ~pressured area status~ amounts to 8615 houses comprising: 586 in Badenoch and Strathspey; 2603 in Inverness; 1405 in Lochaber; 724 in Nairn; 2736 in Ross and Cromarty and 561 in Skye and Lochalsh.

Estimates based on past house purchase patterns have shown that without designation of ~pressured area status~ some 740 Council house tenants out of the 8615 would buy their homes in these areas. The number of Council houses that are likely to be retained as social rented housing because of this in the communities designated as ~pressured areas~ would be: 52 in Badenoch and Strathspey; 322 in Inverness; 78 in Lochaber, 53 in Nairn; 220 in Ross and Cromarty; and 15 in Skye and Lochalsh.

Following local consultation and based on information about demand, Caithness and Sutherland areas will not be included in the application for pressured area status.

Councillor Sheena Slimon, Highland Council's Housing spokesperson said: "The Council appreciates that many tenants aspire to being home owners. There are alternative ways to purchase housing and become owners through some of the low cost home ownership schemes such as through Rural Homeownership Grants and shared equity housing (~Homestake~). The Council will, by sending a newsletter to all tenants explain these options and offer support to tenants wishing to purchase a home other than their Council house."

27 March 05
Wick and Thurso To Get More New Housing

28 Houses At Harrowhill, Wick and 25 Houses at Manson's Lane, Thurso
Communities Scotland has announced a series of developments across the Highlands and Islands with funding package of £37 million.  £1.6 million has been allocated to Pentland Housing for the Caithness schemes. £1 million will go on the Wick development for 24 semi-detached houses and four flats.  £600,000 will be spent on the Thurso houses.  In total the new scheme will help to build 711 new houses.  In Caithness the homes will be for rent or low-cast home ownership.

19 March 05
Affordability is the name of the game for buyers
Buying your first home has always been a big step but with prices having gone through the metaphorical roof in recent years, first-time buyers have never found it so tough to get on the ladder,

18 March 05
Scanlon Attacks Cut In Highland Funding For Supporting People
Mary Scanlon MSP The Scottish Conservative's spokesman for Communities, used today debate on Housing to acknowledge the 400,000 families in Scotland who own their own homes as a direct result of the Tory Right to Buy, saying; "These were mainly first time buyers, achieving their aspiration of home own ownership.

"The Scottish Conservatives would welcome policies building on the fundamental principles of the Right to Buy scheme to maximise opportunities for tenants to become homeowners, and which propose to make shared ownership more flexible and affordable to more people.

Mary also called for further explanation as to why many homes sit empty; "It is often stated that Scotland does not function as a single housing market, but we must also recognise that many local authorities do not function as a single housing market. If you have a job in Inverness for example, a council house in Wick or Kinlochleven is of little use. With over 10,000 empty homes in Glasgow and plans to demolish 100 tower blocks, and Edinburgh 8,741 empty homes. Is it due to poor conditions of the properties or poor management and investment in the properties or other reasons?"

Mary further commented; "The cuts in the Supporting People funding for Highland over the next 3 years will be £2 million, making it very difficult for them to provide housing support and indeed to increase services, particularly following new homelessness legislative requirements. Highland Council has asked for a commitment that the funding available to support the introduction of homelessness legislation will be continued."

Mary also stated the Conservatives opposition to the Executive's proposals for a mandatory single seller survey; "74 surveys from a target of 1200 cannot be said to be a success. It also can hardly be used as an evidence base for future mandatory policy, with only one example of a survey in Edinburgh and only 5 completed in Inverness.

"Whilst we would welcome more information for purchasers, there are many aspects of the single seller survey which need to be examined: "In particular, I think we can agree that it will take longer to sell older properties due to the complexity of the survey and the extent of repair. We also await confirmation that new homes with the 10 year national Housing building guarantee would be exempt from this survey."

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.

25 February 05
Community ownership has delivered the goods for Scottish Homes
Independent research for Communities Scotland has found that the stock transfer of 52,000 homes from its predecessor, Scottish Homes, to housing associations has largely delivered on promises and brought significant benefits to and greater involvement by the tenants involved.

In the late 1980s Scottish Homes owned and managed 75,000 homes. In 1991 it began divesting its stock through individual sales and a programme of transfers to purpose-built and existing housing associations. Scottish Homes now owns only 500 homes which will be transferred this year when it will be wound up.

Communities Scotland commissioned the University of Glasgow to study the impact of these stock transfers. It sought to identify the lessons learned from the transfer programme, to measure its effectiveness and to assist the local authorities, housing associations, tenants and other organisations involved in community ownership and the stock transfer programme.

The research found that:

  • The stock transfer achieved its primary objective – the transfer of ownership. It also succeeded in attracting private finance and contributed to a more business-orientated culture.

  • The transfers have raised housing quality and provided additional housing investment.

  • Case study evidence indicates that key promises made to tenants on rents, investment, service improvement and tenant involvement are being delivered.

  • The housing associations involved in the transfers have met or improved upon expected performance in their business plans.

  • Tenants are more involved and management committees are more empowered and have expanded the role of associations into wider community activities.

Commenting on the research, Angiolina Foster, chief executive of Communities Scotland, said:

“This research confirms what we believed, that the transfer process had delivered to tenants, had involved them more in management of their homes. It has also increased investment in their homes while maintaining reasonable rent levels. All as promised.

“I hope that these findings will be helpful and reassuring to those people and organisations involved in stock transfers. The aim has always been better quality housing and more accountability to tenants and this has been achieved.

Bill Fernie the Caithness Area Housing And social Work chairman said "This is good news for Highland Council's move towards Housing Stock Transfer to Community Ownership announced recently."  The fact that the principle has proved successful elsewhere vindicates the council's decision to take this forward"  Already money is earmarked to come to the Highlands that would not otherwise have come from the Scottish Executive".  there is long way to go before tenants are asked to vote on the transfer but I think that they should take heart from this latest report"

19 February 05
Highland House Prices Increasing
Figures released today by Registers of Scotland show that the average price for a residential property has levelled off in the last quarter (October to December).  However, the highest year-on-year increase, at 24 per cent is in Highlands and Islands where the average house now sells for £114,953. Commenting, Mary Scanlon MSP said; "I am delighted to hear that prices have levelled off, but I am not surprised to hear this worrying rate of increase in the Highlands. 

"This increase makes it very difficult for First time buyers and young families to start a new home in Inverness and the Highlands.

"With 9000 on the Highland Council Housing waiting list, there is an urgent need for the Scottish Executive to work with developers in order to provide more low cost affordable housing for first time buyers, and to ensure affordable housing for those who wish to rent."

Mary Scanlon MSP is a member of the Communities Committee with responsibility for Housing and Planning.

A new Housing Bill is due in March, and a Planning Bill will follow.

Archive Housing News 2003 & 2004