Pioneering New House Building Model To Be Considered
Highland Councillors are being asked to consider investigating the feasibility of a pioneering new model of providing much-needed affordable homes in the Highlands.
It could see a new build programme of 650 houses over a five year period.
The idea is for the Council to work with a private sector partner to release the equity currently tied up in its Council houses. As houses become vacant they would transfer to the private sector partner in return for a capital payment. The capital would be used to build new houses for let as Council tenancies.
A key point to note is that the Council would continue to allocate, manage and maintain the stock, based on agreed fees per unit to be paid to the council by the partner.
The transferred houses would be relet to applicants on the Highland Housing Register at rent levels pitched between the average council rent and private rents, currently estimated at £75 per week (charged over 52 weeks). The average council rent for the current financial year is £59.76 (over 52 weeks).
Properties would revert to Council ownership at nil cost after 25 years.
Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chairman of the Council's Housing and Social Work Committee, said: "This is an interesting proposition that has come forward from our Housing and Property management team, which allows the Council to release equity on the asset value of council housing becoming vacant to relet to generate funds for new council house building. We estimate this could number 650 over a five year period, The number could be significantly increased if the Scottish Government continues to provide subsidy for Council house building.
"The Housing and Social Work Committee will be asked to agree to undertake and fund a full feasibility assessment on the equity release model as a means to deliver additional affordable housing in the Highlands. We would work closely with the Scottish Government in developing the model.
"We would then come back to the Committee with a detailed business case."
She stressed that addressing the shortage of affordable housing in the Highlands is one of the Council's key priorities.
She added: "Strengthening the Highlands" has a target of 2,000 new affordable homes by 2011. We are on target to meet this commitment, but have identified ongoing high levels of demand for additional housing for rent beyond 2011. Successive Local Housing Strategies have identified the need for additional housing supply as the main strategic issue in relation to housing."
The Highland Council’s snow clearing / gritting route policies and area maps are online for 2013/14 at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting. Road condition and gritting treatment reports by The Highland Council’s, Transport, Environmental and Community Services for Thursday 5 December 2013 are as follows: Caithness, South Sutherland and East Ross U2126 Oykel Bailley Bridge Road closed due to flooding.
The Highland Council and Police Scotland are to work together to ensure parking management is maintained in the Highlands when the traffic warden service – currently provided by the police - ends. Police Scotland have given notice of the completion of their phased withdrawal from the service from 3 February, next year.
Today (5 December 2013) 56 schools, 7 Service Points and council offices were closed due to lack of power, bad weather or loss of water. There were issues with the Council’s website and school closures online which are being investigated.
Currently firms are contacting businesses asking for support for an educational programme on cyber bullying. The line is that councils have cut back on their funding and they can offer help to classes in your local school if you donate to the programme.
Mr Neil Gillies, The Highland Council’s Director of Transport Environmental and Community Services, has announced his decision to retire from the Council, with effect from the end of January, next year. Mr Gillies joined the former Highland Regional Council in 1978 and worked on a wide range of civil engineering projects including roads, bridges, harbours and coast protection works, and road maintenance.
The by-election for a councillor to represent the Landward Caithness Ward (No 4) on The Highland Council has been won by Matthew Reiss, who will join the Independent Group on the Council Mr Reiss was one of five candidates who contested the vacancy, created by the resignation of Alex MacLeod. He joins Councillors David Bremner (Independent), Willie Mackay (Independent) and Gillian Coghill (Independent) in representing the Landward Caithness Ward.
The Highland Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) has been successful in securing further funding to support coastal communities as part of the European Fisheries Fund Axis 4 programme. There is now over £200,000 still available to assist projects which contribute to the sustainable development of fisheries areas around the Highlands.
A key piece of work to maximise the onshore benefits in Caithness and North Sutherland from the anticipated upsurge of marine renewables has been updated to highlight progress already made and to set new targets for the year ahead. The North Highland Onshore Vision was produced by The Highland Council in 2011 to support the development of marine renewable energy developments.
“The North Highlands are ready for winter” was the message given at the Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee yesterday (18 November 2014) with staff, vehicles and a plentiful supply of salt in place to treat roads and footpaths over the coming winter months. The Highland Council has increased its winter maintenance budget to £5.6 million this year and has introducing an improved service with 45,500 tonnes of salt in storage in readiness for winter.
At yesterday’s (Monday 18 November 2014) Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee, members heard about the work been done by the North Highland Initiative to develop tourism in the Area with Tom Campbell, Chief Executive outlining some of the exciting destination development projects planned over the next 12 months. The North Highland Initiative (NHI) was launched in August 2005 to promote and develop the economy and to support the rural communities of the North Highlands bringing together the farming community, local businesses and the tourism industry to try to address some of the challenges facing rural communities in the far north of Scotland by creating a powerful regional identity for the area through marketing.
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