Affordable homes plan for Aberdeenshire approved by councillors
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Aberdeenshire Council's strategic plan for affordable housing investment over the next five years has been approved by its communities committee.
The proposal is required by the Scottish Government and guides the application of funding from Holyrood and other sources.
At the online meeting of the local authority's communities committee, it was outlined that the Strategic Housing Investment Plan had been assessed by the region's six area committees, which had provided comments. Consultation also took place with a variety of partners.
The report that went before councillors outlined that work had started on 297 social rent homes of which 32 are being delivered through the council’s new build programme and the remaining 265 through registered social landlord partners.
It said: "This includes developments across the following locations: Fraserburgh, Portsoy, Banff, Inverurie, Sauchen, Ballater, Banchory, Kincardine O’Neil, Stonehaven, Laurencekirk, Marykirk, St Cyrus and Chapleton.
"Of these 297 units, 79 are suitable for particular needs including 19 for wheelchair users.
"Work has also commenced on site for 34 units for mid market rent by a registered social landlord and 32 units for shared equity in Inverurie, Stonehaven, Laurencekirk, Chapleton, Finzean and Alford.
"Of these 66 units, 19 are suitable for particular needs including one for a wheelchair user."
It was highlighted that the strategy has been drafted in accordance with Scottish Government guidance and as yet future grant allocations still have to be announced.
The report added: "The grant funding is intended to enable the delivery of affordable housing and sits alongside the City Region Deal.
"Over the course of the five-year period potentially 2027 homes, with around 528 potentially suitable for particular needs households, of which 201 wheelchair accessible, could be delivered across Aberdeenshire subject to grant availability, financial capacity and financial viability."
The committee was also told that the strategy is subject to housing developments coming forward and obtaining the necessary approvals and consents.
It was outlined the local housing market is facing some challenges with a negative trend for five yearly house prices and rental values, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The report said: "At this time it is very difficult to accurately gauge the impact of Covid-19 but anecdotal evidence to date suggests that there may be challenges around health and safety; pace of construction on site; supply chain; availability of contractors/sub-contractors; availability of both corporate and individual finance; and a drop in oil and gas revenues.
"This is significant in that it is important to recognise that a high proportion of current and future affordable housing developments will be in the form of contributions via the Affordable Housing Policy, which are dictated by the development industry’s build-out rate which is intrinsically linked to the economy and the local housing market."
The council's strategy housing manager Alexander Macleod told the meeting that an issue that had been highlighted in particular was a lower number of sites in the Banff and Buchan area.
He added: "Social rent is the most affordable form of housing and the Banff and Buchan area has been targeted at a high level with this. The plan continues to have a very high proportion in place.
"The majority of sites are led by developers and we have limited control, but the aim is to make the most of these sites."
Banff and District councillor Glen Reynolds said: "I am reassured by your comments regarding Banff and Buchan. Providing affordable homes in the area is key."
No other issues were highlighted by councillors and the committee agreed to approve the strategy, which will be submitted to the Scottish Government by mid-December.