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Providing Housing For Key Workers

The Scottish Government is providing funding of £25 million to support local authorities in their endeavours to find affordable housing for key workers in their communities.

The funding, over a 5 year period, will help local councils and registered social landlords to acquire or lease properties which can be used to provide homes to meet the needs of key workers.

 The Affordable Housing Supply Programme is designed to make best use of underused or empty properties focussing on the needs of key workers and others in need of housing.

The following figures are the latest released for Orkney for new build completions

New Build
Orkney Local Authority000368
Housing Association4008020
Private Sector98606960n/a
Housing Statistics – New Build Completions

The number of new dwellings provided by conversion in Orkney was:

  • 2020/2021: 6
  • 2019/2020: 5
  • 2018/2019: 0
  • 2017/2018: 10

Some properties have been refurbished for rent or low cost housing by Housing Associations, and some are private dwellings funded wholly or partly by the Affordable Housing Investment Programme.

The dwellings in this category for Orkney are as follows:

  • 2020/2021: 0
  • 2019/202: 0
  • 2018/2019: 0
  • 2017/2018: 36

Commenting on the funding to local authorities to help support the housing needs of key workers, Housing Minister in the Scottish Government Paul McLennan said:                                                                                  

Head and shoulders picture of Paul McLennan

“Good quality affordable housing is essential to attract and retain people in rural communities, particularly in areas where key workers are needed. That’s why we are making up to £25 million available in a dedicated fund to make affordable homes for key workers, such as those working in the public sector and emergency services.

“Delivering affordable homes is a priority for this government. We have committed to delivering 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032 – with at least 10% in remote, rural and island areas. Our upcoming delivery plan will set out actions to support our rural and island communities including areas such as transport, repopulation and economic development.”

Recently Orkney Islands Council had to put out a plea to find housing for key workers moving to the islands. The request was successful and a match was found for 6 employees from private landlords.

Maureen Swannie, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance and Interim Head of Children, Families and Justice Services at OIC had put out the request when key workers were unable to find housing in Orkney. OIC state “This is not about favouring folk from away over people already resident in Orkney – this is about those who have been offered a position on their own merits and securing staff for our public services. Unfortunately, like so many other desirable areas to live, Orkney has a shortage of private rental accommodation.”

The successful promotion of Orkney over the last two decades as a desirable holiday destination, coupled with not enough affordable housing being available to rent or buy has resulted in a housing crisis for those already living here and those who are moving here for employment.

In Orkney, and Scotland as a whole, house prices for buyers have increased. Rents have also increased . The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Act has been extended to 30 September 2023, with the changes to the Act meaning that from 1 April 2023 if a private landlord chooses to increase a tenant’s rent mid-tenancy then the increase will be capped at 3% (previously 0%). Private landlords will alternatively be able to apply for a rent increase of up to 6% (previously 3%) to help cover certain increases in costs in defined and limited circumstances. Enforcement of evictions will continue to be paused for up to six months except in a number of specified circumstances. – Scottish Housing Market Review Q1 2023

And it’s costing much more to build new houses or to convert/refurbish older properties as the price of building materials has increased considerably.

Construction output price inflation for new public and private housing increased by 11.0% annually to December 2022. One of the drivers of output price inflation has been large increases in the prices of construction materials used in new build, although the annual growth rate has moderated from 24.0% in June 2022 to 7.7% in January 2023. Source (ONS and BEIS) For some construction companies this increase in cost has been unsustainable with a rise in insolvencies of construction companies registered in Scotland and in England.

graph showing insolvency figures for Scotland and England
Number of Registered Company Insolvencies in the Construction Sector (Quarterly)

The effects of a cost of living crisis and the lack of affordable housing in a low wage economy like Orkney can be seen in the retail sector. When people have to spend a greater amount of their household budget on the basics then there is little room for other purchases. There is a deepening inequality in our community which all of us should be concerned about. A lack of affordable housing, food insecurity and extortionate fuel prices in energy rich islands is not where our community should be in 2023. House building by OIC has been abysmal and if it really wants to address the housing shortage it should look to its own lack of investment in the sector.

The closing down sale of the M&Co shop in Kirkwall

Fiona Grahame

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