Edward Andrews has made available to the Gurn a copy of his letter to the Nairnshire Telegraph in response to comments on housing matters made by Liz MacDonald and reported in the issue of 24th of July in the local paper. It certainly is a thought-provoking letter.
I was interested in reading Cllr MacDonald’s comments in the “Nairnshire” about the need for Affordable Housing in Nairn. Does she in fact mean “Affordable Housing”, or housing which people can afford?
There is a difference. So I thought that I wold look at the “Shelter” definition. They give a rough guide tending to say that the cut-off for what’s affordable is 35% of a person’s net household income ( income after tax and benefits). Any more than this and it’s likely that they will have to cut back on something else or will have to borrow or will fall into arrears.
Helpfully Cllr MacDonald tells us that there are almost 400 people on the waiting list for houses in Nairn, what we cannot know is what the economic situation of these people are, and whether or not they can afford to buy from a developer even at an allegedly affordable price.
It is generally accepted that the most socially destructive action of the Thatcher Years were the sale of Council Houses, and this is being reversed by the present Scottish Government with no fewer than 5,992 council houses built in the last parliamentary term. Of the 50,000 affordable houses planned until 2021, some 35,000 or 70% will be for social rent. It is unlikely that these will be built by developers reacting to the invisible hand of the market, and the interest of the shareholders.
Were Nairn to become a no go area for developers, as Cllr MacDonald suggests, this would mean that the demand for land would fall as would the land prices and it might be possible for the community in one form or another to work to meet the needs of the almost 400 people on the housing list, that they would have the kind of houses which they need rather than the £200,000+ houses which seem to be being built by developers.
As Cllr MacDonald says, this area is under delivering significantly on its local quota. The answer is to move on from the failed system where developers build a few “Affordable” houses as part of their building mix, but that the needs of the least able to find housing at the moment is prioritised.
There will be a site visit by members of the Highland Council planning committee to the Lochloy area on August 8th to see the area (owned by Councillor MacDonald) where a housing development company wishes to build a large number of houses. The councillors will also meet local residents to hear their concerns about infrastructure, wildlife and other issues.