Perth and Kinross Council policy changed to prioritise affordable housing

Perth and Kinross Council HQ, High Street,Perth
Perth and Kinross Council HQ, High Street,Perth Pictures by staff photographer Richard Wilkins -Credit:Perthshire Advertiser

Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) will now prioritise affordable housing when disposing of surplus land and buildings.

Councillors unanimously agreed to update the local authority's policy in the same week the Scottish Government declared a national housing emergency.

In Perth and Kinross , there are currently 3305 people on the council housing list with three applicants to every available let.

PKC's Local Housing Strategy 2022-2027 (LHS) has a vision that "Everyone in Perth and Kinross has access to the right home, in the right place and at the right cost".

It set a target of supplying 1,050 new affordable homes over its five-year period. However a key challenge in meeting that target is a shortage of land or buildings suitable for redevelopment for affordable housing.

On Wednesday, May 15 Perth and Kinross Council agreed to update its 2013 Disposal of Land and Buildings Policy to better reflect the pressing need for affordable housing.

Presenting a report outlining the proposed change to policy, PKC's strategic lead for Property Services Stephen Crawford told elected members: "The purpose of this report is to update and seek approval to update and amend the 2013 Disposal of Land and Buildings Policy to reflect the need to prioritise affordable housing delivery with any surplus land and buildings."

His report stated: "There are 3,305 live applicants expressing demand for council housing in Perth and Kinross on the Common Housing Register. The ratio of applications to available lets is three applicants to every vacancy."

As a result of the change, affordable housing will be prioritised over community asset transfers, economic development or other corporate priorities.

This was confirmed to Conservative councillor Angus Forbes.

The Carse of Gowrie councillor asked: "Say for example there was a village hall that we thought might be suitable for social housing but equally there was a local community group that was in a position to take it under asset transfer. Am I reading this correctly that it would go to affordable housing rather than to the community?"

Mr Crawford responded: "Yes."

The council has been working with landowners and developers to potentially obtain land for housing.

PKC's strategic lead for Economy, Development and Planning David Littlejohn said: "There is an issue with land supply in some parts of Perth and Kinross, for example Highland Perthshire due to the land ownership nature and that's where we have been intervening, working with landowners and indeed developers to potentially acquire land because it's the only way we can bring forward land for housing.

"Generally there isn't a shortage of land in terms of its allocation. There might well be infrastructure constraints that might need to be put in place to allow that land to become effective. We need to break it down site by site looking at what the actual specific constraint is."

He said both the council's Planning and Housing teams regularly monitor land and housing supply.

Housing and Social Wellbeing convener SNP councillor Tom McEwan said: "Land ownership and private ownership is an issue in this country and it's something that needs to be looked at by the parliaments to be fixed. If we can work in partnership with both parliaments, third sector, RSLs (Registered Social Landlords) then this is a challenge that we in Scotland can overcome but we can't overcome it by ourselves. And we can't overcome it if we're going to have runs of inflation at 10/12 per cent because that has really kicked the housing market at the moment because of construction costs and availability of labour."

Provost Xander McDade represents Highland Perthshire.

The Independent councillor said: "This is a significant opportunity for us as a council to excel our rural housing in some of our most in need communities and thus enable children to be lifted out of poverty, enable the economy to be maximised and to give everyone the opportunities they require."

Moving the report - which was unanimously approved - SNP council leader Grant Laing said: "The current unmet affordable housing demand is a key priority for this council and this policy will assist in delivering more affordable and social housing."