Call for local councils to give land to housing associations

The construction has been flagging in the current economic climate. Picture: Craig Stephen
The construction has been flagging in the current economic climate. Picture: Craig Stephen
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SCOTLAND’S main housing association body yesterday called on local authorities and other public groups to hand over land for free to meet demand for affordable homes and help the flagging construction industry.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) yesterday noted the 35 per cent cut to development budgets, with more set to follow.

Graham Harper, the SFHA’s policy and strategy manager, told a conference in Dunblane that providing land free or at below market rate will make it possible to build more units.

Speaking after the meeting, Harper told The Scotsman: “Public finances are not what they were.

“It is about making the most of resources that we have to try and increase capacity for registered social landlords (RSLs) to deliver.

“If we can bring in some public land at no value or reduced value, it will help. It will increase the capacity we have to develop the business.”

Harper pointed to Stirling Council, which released land to Rural Stirling Housing Association, allowing the social landlord to develop 18 houses which were completed last May.

The SFHA argues that, although local authorities will not get capital receipts for the sale of land, they will get income from increased council tax.

Local authorities should be willing to meet social aims such as reducing housing waiting lists, he said.

“Local authorities are public organisations. They are not there to make money by selling off assets, they are about how they make its assets work,” said Harper.

“The issue we are fighting against is the land was valued during the boom period. Now it is sitting on the books at a very high value.

“There’s no excuse for having attached a high value to it when there are very little resources to deal with it.

“You have a construction industry on its knees. And there’s a huge shortage of housing. If you can’t use the land now, when can you do it?”

Owen McKee, chairman of Rural Stirling, 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.”