8 July 08 Help To Improve Highland
Homes - Repair and Improvement Grants Residents in the Highlands may be eligible
for a council grant to help towards making improvements to their home so
homeowners, tenants, crofters and landlords are being advised to check to
see if they qualify for help. Grants
are available to homeowners who have lived their property for at least 2
years and who use the property as their main residence. Disabled
homeowners are automatically entitled for help with certain improvement
work provided that the Council is satisfied that the works are necessary.
Crofters are treated as homeowners and additional help may be available to
them through the Crofter’s
Commission Croft House Grant Scheme.
Landlords may get a grant if they let their property to people who
are not members of their family. If they let their property to disabled
tenants, they are obliged to carry out certain work. Tenants can apply to
get a grant for any work that is their
responsibility under their lease, but they will be required to seek the
permission of their landlord.
24 May 08
Second Home Council Tax Funds To Help Meet Rural Housing Shortage
Extra Council Tax paid by owners of second and holiday homes in the
Highlands is to be increasingly targeted at providing affordable homes in
rural communities where development costs are high and a housing need has
been identified. The additional income derived over the past two years
from the reduction in Council Tax discount (from 50% to 10%) is £4.7
In the first year of the "windfall",
this income has been used to buy land for future development and pay for
the costs of preparing these sites as well as rural housing but in future
it will be focused on high-cost rural schemes. Committee members
recognised that major challenges are experienced in developing housing in
rural areas due to site conditions, high infrastructure costs, the lack of
contractors and the lack of economies of scale.
Individual projects in high cost rural
areas will be presented to the committee for approval as they are
identified throughout the year.
Committee Chairman, Councillor Margaret
Davidson, said: "The use of the additional Council Tax income on second
and holiday homes will put money back into the very communities that are
experiencing housing shortages because of high levels of second home
ownership. We will prioritise part-funding of high cost rural projects in
areas of housing need and in accordance with our housing strategy."
The Committee has also agreed to forward
fund new affordable housing projects using the Council's landbank fund,
which currently stands at almost £10 million. The landbank fund is used to
grant loans to housing agencies, enabling them to landbank strategic sites
in the Highlands and to fund the removal of building constraints on these
sites. The landbank fund has been very useful in securing sites for new
affordable housing, which might otherwise have been lost.
The fund is recyclable. When the housing
agency disposes of a site or develops housing using other funding the
grant is repaid. A total of £12.5 million has been loaned to date, of
which £6.6 million has been repaid.
Councillor Davidson said: "In order to
minimise the delays in delivering new affordable housing, we will be
entering into discussions with the Scottish Government to agree to forward
fund some of the new projects, using the landbank fund."
Earlier, the committee was advised that
the Council continues to provide more affordable houses than any other
council in Scotland. It is on course to meet its target of providing 2,000
additional affordable houses by 2011.
80% of housing association programmes
over the last two years have been delivered through the direct involvement
of the Council, recognised as one of the most pro-active in Scotland.
In 2007-8, an investment of £38 million
saw work start of 563 houses and a further 350 houses are scheduled to
start in this financial year.
Councillor Davidson said: "Our housing
development team is doing an outstanding job in working with the Scottish
Government and our housing partners in Highland to meet the needs of our
16 May 08 NORTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL SUSPENDS RIGHT TO BUY
Right to Buy has been suspended in areas of North Ayrshire to prevent
serious shortages of affordable housing. Ministers have accepted North
Ayrshire Council's request to apply 'pressured area' status to 11 letting
areas. This will allow the council to retain homes for rent to people on
low incomes in areas facing social housing pressures aggravated by Right
Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell
said: "North Ayrshire Council requested the suspension of Right to Buy to
ease the substantial pressures facing affordable housing in the area. "It
is the ninth council to have successfully applied to use the pressured
area mechanism and I would ask other councils to consider whether it could
be used as a suitable response to particular pressures within their areas.
"The Scottish Government wishes to explore ways of achieving greater local
flexibility in the operation of the Right to Buy. The pressured area
mechanism is only one way of achieving this. We are also committed to
introducing legislation to end the right to buy for new build social
houses and our recent announcement of a ý25 million incentive package will
help to kick start a new generation of council house building in
Councillor Tom Barr, executive member
for the Environment at North Ayrshire Council, added: "The Council is
delighted that the Scottish Government has approved our application for
pressured area status. The application is part of our overall Affordable
Housing Framework which details our strategic vision for increasing and
retaining affordable housing in North Ayrshire.
"The Council is committed to meeting the
affordable housing need of local people and to eradicating homelessness.
By supporting our application, the Scottish Government has contributed to
this vision by allowing us to retain social housing in highly pressured
Tenants within the designated areas will
have the Right to Buy their rent council or housing association house
suspended for five years:
Castlepark, Girdle Toll & Lawthorn (including Chapeltoun), Harbourside,
Irvine East, Woodlands, Largs, Fairlie, Skelmorlie, West Kilbride,
Dreghorn and Drybridge.
The suspension of Right to Buy only applies to tenancies which have
commenced since September 30, 2002. An estimated 1,237 tenancies in North
Ayrshire are affected.
Pressured area designations have now been approved in the following local
* East Renfrewshire (Eastwood area) on October 7, 2005
* Highland (all areas excluding Caithness, Sutherland and some estates in
Inverness and Fort William) on November 15, 2005
* South Ayrshire (29 letting areas comprising much of Prestwick and Ayr,
and rural settlements) on February 10 2006
* Moray (Elgin, Lossiemouth and Forres rural) on March 7, 2006
* Fife (St Andrews and the East Neuk) on May 8, 2006 and (13 west Fife
villages) on January 15, 2007
* Dumfries and Galloway (69 villages of population less than 400 across
the local authority area) on June 5, 2006
* Perth and Kinross (21 letting areas across Highland Perthshire and in
the rural areas around Perth) on February 2, 2007
* Aberdeen (35 letting areas across the city) on September 5, 2007
Right to Buy changed significantly when the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001
reduced and capped discount levels, extended the qualifying period to five
years and introduced the pressured area mechanism.
27 March 08
House Building In Highland 2007
In 2007 1,807 new houses were completed; a 7% increase on
2006 figures and a new high for Highland. This is a significant
contribution to achieving The Highland Council Administration’s priority
of working with Scottish Government, local partners and the private sector
to enable 6,000 new houses to be built over the next 4 years.
In 2007 house completions in Caithness by ward were -
Thurso 55, Wick 39, Landward Caithness 80.
26 March 08
Affordable Housing Consultation Reminder
Communities are being reminded of an ongoing consultation on proposed
changes to The Highland the Council's supplementary planning guidance on
Affordable Housing. This policy is currently used to ensure that proposals
for housing development deliver at least a proportion (currently 25%) as
affordable housing. There have been a number of changes to the definitions
and means of delivery of affordable housing since the guidance was
produced in 2002, so it is an opportune time for review. A number of
options for change are set out within the document, and everyone with an
interest in affordable housing is asked to contribute to the debate.
The outcomes of the consultation will be
considered by the Council's Planning Environment and Development Committee
as soon as possible after 28 April - the closing date for responses.
Copies of the document are available at Council Service Points and on the
www.highland.gov.uk under the section entitled "Consultation".
The consultation period has been running from 3 March.
Councillor Drew Hendry, the Chairman of
the Council's Planning Environment and Development Committee, said: "We
all have a role to play in ensuring that the amount of affordable housing
is increased, and this is an opportunity to contribute to the debate about
how we actually do it."
Responses to the consultation can be
made in the following ways:
~ by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or
~ by post to: Director of Planning & Development, The Highland Council,
Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX
2 February 08
New Highland Housing Register Means Applicants Must Re-Register
The six main providers of rented accommodation in the Highlands have
joined forces to make it easier for applicants on housing waiting lists to
access housing. The Highland Council together with the five housing
associations operating in the Highlands - Albyn; Cairn; Lochaber; Lochalsh
& Skye; and Pentland - have produced a single housing register and this
week 15,000 applicants on the waiting lists of the agencies will be sent a
new housing application form to complete.
The new application form means people who want to be housed by the Council
or any of the housing associations with housing in the Highlands will only
have to fill in a single form. Previously applicants had to complete
separate Housing Application Forms for each landlord.
However anyone who is on a housing list with any of the landlords just now
will have to fill in a new form.
Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chair of the Council’s Housing and Social
Work Committee said: “The Highland Housing Register is a really exciting
initiative that will make it easier for people to apply for housing in the
future. It is very important that people remember to complete the forms
when they receive them – even if they have already provided information in
a different application quite recently. We will only be able to include
people on the new Highland Housing Register if they complete a form.”
If any applicants have any queries regarding the new form, they can
contact any of the partners for further information.
23 January 08
New Era for Scottish housing
A major expansion of a scheme to help more
first time buyers get into the housing market has been announced.
The shared equity scheme is part of LIFT
- Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers - a new Government package to
help people who aspire to own their home.
Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell
said 2008 marked the beginning of a new era for housing in Scotland in
which councils, house builders, and housing associations have a vital role
in delivering change.
Speaking at the Building Homes For
Scotland event in Edinburgh, Mr Maxwell outlined the Scottish Government's
vision of a housing system that delivers good quality, energy efficient,
affordable housing across all tenures.
He spoke of the Government's progress
since publication of the Firm Foundations consultation paper in October
2007 and the positive work that is underway through the Housing Supply
The consultation ends on Friday and
delegates were encouraged to respond to proposals which include:
Challenging Scotland's local
authorities, developers and builders to increase the rate of new housing
supply in Scotland to at least 35,000 a year by the middle of the next
Increasing the role of local
authorities as landlords by offering financial incentives to councils
that have the capacity to fund new council housing
Ending the Right to Buy on new social
housing built by councils and housing associations
Establishing a Scottish Sustainable
Communities Initiative to encourage local authorities and their partners
to bring forward proposals for sustainable new settlements to meet
demand in particular areas
Mr Maxwell said: "We are about to embark upon a new era
for housing in Scotland - an era that will see the creation of a housing
system that finally meets the needs of our communities.
"When Nicola Sturgeon launched the
Government's ambitious proposals for the future of Scotland's housing in
October with Firm Foundations, it was clear action was needed to rectify a
housing system that was failing.
"Three months on and we have already
taken significant steps towards delivering this vision, but this
Government does not underestimate the scale of the challenge.
"Scotland can and should have the
prosperous sustainable future it deserves and meeting the housing
aspirations of our population is an essential step towards that goal.
"The time to bring change is now and we
must seize the opportunity to do so."
10 November 07
Latheron, Lybster and Clyth Community Council launched
Lybster Housing Option Study
It was identified approximately 12 - 18 months ago by people living in and
around Lybster, that there was a need for housing in the area. Highlands
Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) have been carrying out initial
ground works on our behalf, but now it's the turn of local residents to
We are looking for people in the area to
get in touch with HSCHT to help firm up ideas for any potential
development. Initial discussions with housing funding bodies have
indicated there may well be money available for development plans.
We are asking residents to complete a
single A4 page questionnaire to indicate if they have an interest in
housing. This may be
shared equity housing
low cost serviced plots -
(these are dependant on demand and interest)
Questionnaires have been distributed to
those who have previously indicated an interest. But, forms are also
available from Lybster Post Office (thanks to Gail for allowing this!)
The ball is in your court - if you feel
this would be beneficial to the village, get a form and send it back... if
there is no interest this will simply fall on it's head - the end!
The Community Council have done all they
can at the moment - your help to take a possible scheme forward is VITAL.
For further information contact any
community council member.
10 November 07
Reviewing Planning Policy to Accelerate Provision of Affordable Housing
The Highland Council's Planning Environment and Development Committee is
to review planning guidance to ensure the Council Administration meets its
commitment to deliver 2,000 additional affordable homes over the next four
The review will cover topics such as the
mechanisms for the delivery of affordable housing, levels of contribution
sought, affordable housing thresholds and the issues involved in
increasing the supply of land for well sited and designed affordable
housing across the Highlands.
A half-day seminar for members on
affordable housing is to be held on Monday 26 November which will inform
and set out the context for the review of the guidance and the outcomes
and further work being undertaken by planning and housing and property
officials will be presented to the Planning Environment and Development
Committee on 23 January, next year with recommendations on any policy
changes required, as well as arrangements for public consultation.
The timetable will allow the Council to
respond to a discussion document by the Scottish Government called ~Firm
Foundations: The Future of Housing in Scotland~, which sets out a number
of issues for the future delivery of affordable housing in Scotland.
Over the past five years, the affordable
housing planning policy in the Highland Structure Plan and individual
Local Plans has helped deliver 1,200 affordable houses. Affordable housing
is also delivered directly by local housing associations or through
organisations such as the Highland Housing Alliance.
Councillor Drew Hendry, Chairman of the
Planning Environment and Development Committee, wants to see the rate of
affordable housing accelerated.
He said: "The Planning and Development
Service has a key role in delivering the Council's commitment for
affordable housing provision. Given the need to ensure the smooth and
timely delivery of affordable housing, there is an opportunity to review
our current approaches to delivery. This will be taken forward by work
being carried out over the course of the next couple of months."
28 July 07
Interim Housing Director Appointed By Highland Council
David Goldie, Head of Housing, The Highland Council, has been appointed
Interim Director of Housing and Property.
Mr Goldie will head up the new service, which combines the former Housing
Service and Property and Architectural Services, until a permanent
appointment is made.
A report on permanent recruitment arrangements will go to The Highland
Council on Thursday 6 September.
Meanwhile, the Council has appointed Ashley Gould, to the new post of Head
of Procurement. Mr Gould is currently the Council's procurement manager.
Reporting to the Director of Finance, Mr Gould will take overall
responsibility for all procurement activity within the Council and will
lead a procurement team, which aims to ensure optimised efficiency and
effectiveness in the Council's annual £180 million-plus procurement
His team will work closely with partner agencies to identify cash-saving
initiatives and develop a five-year strategic procurement strategy to
ensure the Council gets best value out of its procurement activities.
Mr Gould joined The Highland Council in June 2002 as Procurement Manager.
Prior to this he worked for Northern Constabulary as their Procurement
Manager and with the Benefits Agency and Ministry of Defence in other
Mr Gould is the current Chairman of the Scottish Local Government
Procurement Forum and also represents the procurement community on the
Scotland Excel Steering Group.
13 March 07
NORTH MSP HAILS AFFORDABLE HOUSING INITIATIVES AND FUNDING FOR THE
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has welcomed the
announcement by Communities Minister Rhona Brankin of the extension of the
open market Homestake shared-equity scheme to the Highland Council area.
The Minister also announced £36.3 million of spending for affordable
housing in the Highlands over the next year.
Mrs Macmillan said, "The lack of
affordable housing has been a problem in many parts of the Highlands over
the years, with employers often unable to retain staff due to the shortage
of reasonably priced accommodation. The popularity of the Highlands as a
place to live and the continual rise in house prices are also aggravating
the situation so the announcement by Rhona Brankin is excellent news.
Communities Scotland has been running a
pilot programme for the open market Homestake shared-equity scheme in the
central belt of Scotland. This scheme has been used, but not exclusively,
by first time buyers who have been supported by a housing association to
buy a property on the open market. More than £20 million has been invested
in the scheme this year. The extension of the scheme will be yet another
initiative to tackle the affordable housing problem in the Highlands.
Already, we have successful Homestake shared-equity schemes in the
Highlands i.e. Inverness and Caithness.
The Communities Minister also announced
£36.3 million for affordable housing in the Highlands over the next year.
This significant investment will mean that around 500 new homes can be
built for rent or low-cost ownership across the Highlands."
Mrs Macmillan added, "Affordable housing
initiatives are planned for Skye & Lochalsh, Badenoch and Strathspey,
Lochaber, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire and Inverness.
These developments will help alleviate
the affordable housing shortage across the Highlands and shows the
commitment of communities Scotland and the Executive to effectively
address the situation"
This steep rise follows the steady
increases seen in previous years. The largest increases in housing
development between 2005 and 2006 were in Badenoch and Strathspey,
Inverness, Lochaber and Caithness.
In 2006, 278 new affordable homes were
built across the Highlands representing 17% of all housing completions
Councillor Sandy Park, Chairman of The
Highland Council's Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism Committee,
said: "The Highlands are thriving and our population is continuing to grow
so I am delighted to see that the number of new homes being built has
continued to rise in 2006. As always we will not be complacent and will
keep working with developers and local communities to ensure that people
have a choice of quality homes at a range of prices they can afford."
John Rennilson, the Council's Director
of Planning and Development Services, added: "Nearly 300 affordable homes
were built in 2006. The provision of affordable housing is a key priority
for The Council and the planning process has a pivotal role to play along
with our partners in the Housing Service, Highland Housing Alliance,
Communities Scotland and its Housing Associations and others."