Friday, November 02, 2007

Scottish Borders Council Fudging the Issue

According to the BBC, Scottish Borders Council (SBC) has set up a new group under a local councillor to "tackle the shortage of affordable homes in the Scottish Borders.". The report says "average property prices were now running at eight times the average salary in the area. The proposed reopening of the Waverley Line has also driven up housing demand." It goes onto say that Eyemouth has seen some of the sharpest increases in the UK with prices rising 82% in three years.

Well Eyemouth is 48 miles and around an hour and twenty minutes away from the central Borders terminus of the Waverley Line, so the railway has little or no affect on prices. The fact is that house prices in many areas of the Borders are driven by four factors. The ease of commuting to Edinburgh (by road), the attractiveness of the lifestyle, coupled with prices, for people moving from the south of England in particular and the opportunity for people to buy second properties here in the Borders for holiday homes. Last, but by no means least, is the fact that the ripple effect from Edinburgh as people move out to get cheaper housing has driven prices at a faster rate, off the lower base price that Border's housing enjoyed (?) for many years.

According to the councillor in charge of the new group. "The average income has to be multiplied by eight times to allow somebody to buy a house round here given the average house prices. We are going to have a wide-ranging look at what other people in other parts of the country are doing. We're going to get examples of best practice and nothing is off the table, in coming back to council, so that we can get some fresh ideas and see what we can do to make a real difference to this major problem."

Well good luck, but unless the council take control of the supply of affordable rental housing then there's little hope of any change. Developers who are building new homes for sale have no imperative to supply affordable housing, whatever that means, and so in general bigger, more profitable housing is built.

As for the railway line boosting things it's even more doubtful that it is going to be built. Having said that nothing is slowing down the expenditure on the project by SBC, a burden on the taxpayer and a diversion from the real problem. Meanwhile the Scottish government is saying no more money can be allocated to the project. All this is against a background of everyone knowing that the budgeted figures are way too low. It is disingenuous of the council to be ploughing ever onwards, probably diverting money from other schemes across the Borders, to support the white elephant of a railway line that is unfit for purpose.

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