Feb 10 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Friday
RELEASING public land to provide badly needed affordable housing is the subject of a new drive involving Stirling Council and Rural Stirling Housing Association.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has opened the discussion about the potential of such a scheme in a climate of falling public subsidy and a tough private lending environment.
A discussion paper was launched at the SFHA’s development conference in Dunblane recently, with a spotlight shone on local social landlord Rural Stirling Housing Association.
By working together with Stirling Council, RSHA was able to provide 18 affordable homes for rent in a highly sought after site in Kippen.
Stirling Council provided the land on favourable terms, providing it was used purely for affordable housing. The 18 homes in The Old Nursery, are highly energy efficient and incorporate renewable elements.
Rural Stirling chairman Owen McKee said: “This is another great example of successful partnership working between the association, the local community, Stirling Council which provided the site and the Scottish Government which is providing most of the grant funding. We very much hope to be able to continue to provide similar quality homes in the future.”
Stirling Council's housing portfolio holder Councillor Alasdair MacPherson, said: “Stirling Council is committed to working with our local housing associations to meet the housing needs of our local communities. If we can achieve this by releasing our own land bank then we are happy to do so.
“We would hope that other public agencies for example the Health Board, Forestry Commission, even the MOD, police and fire service will follow our example.”
The SFHA’s Graham Harper explained the reasons for looking at using public land for affordable housing:
“If more public land is released for social housing, then housing associations and co-operatives will be in a position to deliver a significantly higher number of homes. While financial resources are in short supply, maximum use must be made of whatever other resources exist. Releasing public land will reduce the risks the sector has taken on to meet the Scottish Government’s target,” he said.
“Land accounts for up to £25,000 a unit of the cost of building a new affordable house. If the land is provided free or even cheaper than market rate, then it will be economically possible to build more units out of the same money.
“While the SFHA will continue to emphasise to politicians of all parties of the benefits of investing properly in affordable housing, we know public finances are stretched. One answer therefore, is to release land owned by local and national government, health boards and other public authorities.
“Some may argue the land should be hoarded for the future or that the capital receipt is the most important thing. But the rainy day is here: we have a huge shortfall in funding for affordable housing, increasing waiting lists, a construction industry on its knees and prospects for economic growth marginal at best. If we can't use it now, frankly we never will.”