HOUSING

Investment and labour costs are Brexit concerns for social housing sector

Housing projects are taking place across West Dunbartonshire and Cllr Diane Docherty with project managers for some of them.

By Bill Heaney

Social housing projects are underway in a number of areas across West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll. But housing is yet another area of concern as the country moves towards Brexit.

West Dunbartonshire Council agreed to approve the purchase of land at Dumbarton Harbour where 45 new Council homes will be built.

The Council has committed to delivering 1000 new affordable homes by 2021.

As well as the Dumbarton Harbour project, the committee also agreed to sell land at Muir Road and Talisman Avenue in Dumbarton to Caledonia Housing Association and the Wheatley Group respectively. Work is underway on both these sites now.

A Council spokesperson said the 1000 new homes by 2021 commitment – part of the More Homes Better Homes programme − will see the Council work with housing association partners to deliver the affordable homes where they are most needed.

The Council is currently building 40 homes at Second Avenue/Singer Street in Clydebank, with construction on 126 due to begin in financial year 2018/19 at the old St Andrews School site in Clydebank.

Also well underway is work on the 45 Council homes at Dumbarton Harbour and 15 in Alexandria town centre.

In 2019/20, work will start on 60 new Council houses in Bellsmyre, 81 in Haldane and 50 in Clydebank East.

Houses to be built by partners include 292 units by Wheatley Group/Cube Housing Association; 86 units by Clydebank Housing Association; 33 Link Housing Association homes; 167 homes by Dunbritton Housing Association and 242 Caledonia Housing Association units.

Councillor Diane Docherty, Convener of Housing & Communities, said: “It was important that the committee gave officers the approval to acquire sites for new houses and also to draw down funding for various housing projects that will contribute to our delivery of 1000 new affordable homes by 2021.

“The Council has set a very ambitious target and it’s one that we are determined to make. We must provide desirable affordable and high quality homes for the people of West Dunbartonshire and the decision taken by the committee this week will ensure we are best placed to do that.”

The Scottish Government has set a national target of 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021, and West Dunbartonshire Council’s More Homes Better Homes approach ties in with this wider aim.

 

Sally Thomas of the Federation of Housing Associations, Dumbarton Harbour and Bellsmyre, Castlehill and Westcliff in the distance.

With the critical vote on the Brexit deal still due, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has revealed the results of its second survey highlighting the views of social housing providers.

Private sector investment and labour costs will remain the major concerns for the social housing sector post-Brexit.

In a follow-up to the Scottish Federation of Housing Association’s 2016 research on the sector’s views on the vote to depart the European Union, and the subsequent uncertainty on what leaving would actually mean for the sector, SFHA once again asked its members about areas of concern and perceived opportunities.

One of the major concerns is increased costs if the UK were to leave the customs union, a concern that was not highlighted in the 2016 survey. The value of the pound reducing would put pressure on costs, which would – in turn – affect service levels to 280,000 households and have an impact on the salaries of the 15,000 people working in the sector.

Respondents also raised concerns about long-term economic uncertainty having a detrimental impact on growth, inflation, interest rates, business confidence and lenders’ attitude to risk.

In the survey, it was revealed that a major organisation currently in the process of raising finance to build more much-needed social homes had been told by lenders that the uncertainty made them nervous and that lending rates were likely to be negatively affected. This was a significant change from 2016, when the majority of respondents said there had been no negative feedback from potential private finance providers or investors since the referendum.

A further concern was about EU funding, which many have used for employability training, and how the funding would be replaced post-Brexit. In addition, the current difficulties in sourcing skilled workers for repairs and development in some areas of Scotland could be considerably worsened by Brexit.

Respondents to SFHA’s 2016 survey were slightly more positive about Brexit, with some members identifying opportunities for Scottish and British construction trades.  This latest survey, however, revels that this optimism has all but disappeared, with 100% of respondents admitting concerns about restricted labour increasing costs.

Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of SFHA, said: “Housing associations are keen to remind elected members, that no matter what the outcome, ensuring access to finance, materials and staff – at costs which allow them to continue to develop – are vital.

“There remains a huge outstanding need for good quality, social housing, and while housing providers are doing all they can as part of the current programme, ensuring investor interest in the long-term is vital if the people of Scotland are to get the homes they need and deserve in the long term.”

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