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RIHAF study tour

The Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum (RIHAF) went on a study tour to Arran on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 June.

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The tour visited some of Isle of Arran Homes' developments, including a sheltered housing complex and learned about the organisation's history and work.

Following a consultation process with tenants and North Ayrshire Council in 2000, the council agreed to transfer all of its stock on Arran, comprising 119 properties, to an organisation created by Trust Housing Association which owned existing housing stock on Arran, forming the current Isle of Arran Homes.

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Isle of Arran Homes manages 285 units, with the majority of tenancies for social rent, general needs housing. Within this total are eight shared ownership properties and 63 properties for older persons and people with support needs.

One in three households (33%) on Arran living in the social or private rented sector is in receipt of Housing Benefit.

A combination of factors leaves few options for those in housing need on Arran:

  • Lack of supply of affordable homes;
  • Low income levels;
  • Long waiting lists – 171 on the current list;
  • High house prices.

The Housing Need and Demand Assessment (HNDA) concluded that there are 64 affordable housing units still required on the island, but within the context of demand in North Ayrshire, Arran has been given a reduced priority moving forward.

The HNDA also notes that a chronic shortfall remains over the next 10 years (125 units) and recognises that there are 140 households which also require an in-situ solution to an issue which they consider will worsen as the population on Arran ages.

Housing costs are high relative to income due to the impact of island living along with the influence of 2nd home purchases.

Based on a typical mortgage assessment using a multiplier of 2.9 times gross household income, 55% of households in Scotland would struggle to buy at the lower quartile price point for Scotland of £87,500. For Arran, the proportion of local households unable to buy at the lower quartile of £139, 250 would be around 80%.

Mortgage availability is restricted due to the income levels generated and linked to the part-time and seasonal nature of employment on the island.

Costs of development are high – sites that become available are usually remote and require the provision of main infrastructure which can be expensive.

Limited resources on the island result in the majority of materials being shipped in from the mainland at around £1,000 per load. Labour also needs to be brought over from the mainland to augment the skills base existing on the island. This pattern of working reduces productivity and increases build time and overall costs where labour needs to be accommodated.

Funding development on the island is challenging in the current climate. Isle of Arran falls within the 'other rural' category with a subsidy of £59,000 rather than the 'remote rural' category attracting a £68,000 subsidy.

Isle of Arran Homes' rents are circa £57.79 pw/unit – comparable with peers – which generates limited private finance requiring Trust to sweat its assets, however, in a context of keeping rents affordable and other costs increasing, this is an increasing challenge that many associations face.

Joanna Voisey, Development Manager at Trust Housing Association, led the tour for RIHAF members, she said:

"It was great to have the members of RIHAF visit the island and see what Arran has to offer as a destination, and also to discuss with them the work we have done here to date and our plans for the future across the various services we offer."

Di Alexander, RIHAF Chairman, said:

"The RIHAF study tour to Arran was a great success and both Trust and Irvine Housing Associations did us proud showing us the excellent housing work they have been delivering there. Yet more evidence of the immense contribution housing associations continue to make to the well-being of Scotland's rural and island communities."


 

   
Treasurer's report

RIHAF Treasurer, Martin Polhammer, gave his Treasurer's Report at the RIHAF Meeting on 18 June. The current balance of the Forum's bank account as at 10 June 2014 is £29,056.13.

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Since the annual accounts were prepared to 31 August 2013, income has been £14,175.00 (£5,675.00 in subscriptions and £8,500 in donations).

Expenditure has been £11,119.78 (£971.15 has been paid in travelling expenses, £6,680.00 conference costs, £163.83 meeting expenses, £290.40 for stationery and £3,014.40 for the newsletter).

Membership Fees

Membership renewals for 2014/15 will be issued in September 2014. Membership fees for 2014/15 were agreed at the meeting. The freeze on membership fees continues for another year, with rates set as follows:


RSL Housing    Stock          Rate
                          Under 100   £50.00

                          101 – 300   £100.00

                          301 – 500   £150.00

                          Over 500     £200.00

Associate Membership (non-RSLs only) - £25.00.


 

   
Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2014

This year's Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference, sponsored by Edison Energy, is taking place on Thursday 30 and Friday 31 October at Crieff Hydro Hotel. It is hosted by Caledonia Housing Association and will cover a range of topical issues concerning rural housing in Scotland.

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Taking place six weeks after the independence referendum, the theme will be 'Scotland has decided – what now for rural and island housing?'.

The conference will update and inform delegates of the changes and initiatives that are taking place and provide an opportunity for frank and open debate.

The programme will include plenary sessions which will take the temperature of the sector and look at the post-referendum picture. There will also be a social enterprise showcase and workshops on community empowerment and housing's contribution to health. This year's event will include a question time panel which will feature political commentators instead of MSPs.

The forum is currently working to put in place the programme and will share further details with members shortly. Please visit the SFHA's website for updates on the conference.


 

   
Highlands and Islands Affordable Warmth Working Group

The Highlands and Islands Affordable Warmth Working Group considers how equitable home energy prices and affordable warmth can be achieved in the highland and island areas of Scotland.

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The remit of the Working Group, which was set up by the Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Liaison Group, is to consider and recommend practicable courses of action that housing associations can take to remove the stumbling blocks to the delivery of affordable warmth.

The Working Group will gather evidence regarding fuel poverty and energy inefficiency and will lobby on the fuel price tariff inequalities.

At the Working Group's last meeting, Joanna Voisey, Development Manager at Trust Housing Association and Neil Clapperton, Chief Executive of Grampian Housing Association, did a presentation on Our Power, a conglomerate of 11 housing associations looking to form a utility company based on housing association principles.

Our Power aims to save tenants at least £100 per year off their energy bills. It is envisaged that tariffs will stay low and competitive, and the company aims to provide excellent customer service. It will likely cost housing associations £1 per unit they own/manage to join Our Power.

Joanna Voisey said:

"This is an exciting opportunity for RSLs to contribute to reducing fuel poverty amongst our tenants and the communities in which we operate. The initiative combines the excellent principles of the housing association sector with delivery of energy to customers at competitive tariffs."

RIHAF Chairman Di Alexander said:

"Most rural and island areas are off-gas which means that the people who live there have to pay much more for their domestic energy consumption than their on-gas/dual tariff counterparts. Moreover, in the North of Scotland, electricity costs over two pence a unit more than it does in most other parts. Housing associations are determined to challenge these inequities by both lobbying and delivering practical solutions like the innovative 'Our Power' initiative. We have the bit between our teeth."

The Working Group will report back to the next half-yearly meeting of the Liaison Group which will be held in Stornoway on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 September.


 

   
Governance and regulation

SFHA Governance Handbook

Codes of Conduct for Staff and Governing Body Members

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The SFHA has been contacted by the SHR to move to publish the Codes of Conduct for Staff and Governing Body Members in advance of a further debate around the Entitlements Payments and Benefits Policy. The SFHA is currently consulting its members regarding this approach.

After extensive negotiations, the wording arrived at retains the key elements of the approach identified by the SFHA and its members (including the definition of connected persons) and the SHR has stated that the two documents would meet its regulatory requirements. Once the SFHA has consulted its members, Employers in Voluntary Housing's JNC will also require to further consider the Staff Code at its next JNC meeting on 14 July.

How to take forward the Entitlements Payments and Benefits Policy debate will be further discussed at the next SFHA board meeting on Wednesday 24 July.

SFHA Contact: Alan Stokes, Policy Manager, astokes@sfha.co.uk 

Scottish Government's Consultation on a Strategic Code of Practice for Scottish Regulators

Copies of all of the responses received by the Scottish Government are now available here, including the SHR's own response.

SFHA's response supported the content of the Code and urged its speedy introduction. The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum endorsed the SFHA's response and it reciprocated.

SFHA Contact, Maureen Watson, Head of Policy, mwatson@sfha.co.uk 


 

   
RIHAF objectives

Progress of the 2013/14 Objectives will be discussed at the RIHAF meeting on 29 October. The objectives are as follows:

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  1. Continue to raise the profile of RIHAF;
  2. Use the MIS research into the cost of living in rural and island Scotland to develop a definition of affordable social rent which reflects these higher costs and takes into account fuel poverty issues;
  3. Highlight and promote the economic and social importance of affordable housing in sustaining rural and islands communities;
  4. Lobby for an equitable share of Scottish Government investment in rural and island affordable housing;
  5. Lobby for a type of funding which realistically reflects the higher costs of building, managing and maintaining affordable housing in rural & island communities;
  6. Represent and support RIHAF members in dealing with the impact of welfare Reform changes on rural and island households.



 

   


 
Produced by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations on behalf of RIHAF members.
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Welcome to the official homepage for the Rural & Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF).

The Forum represents the interests of widely dispersed and disparate social landlords working in remote rural communities as well as those on the periphery of towns.

Send in your news: features@sfha.co.uk

For information on RIHAF membership, please email: martin.pollhammer@elha.com

To access the RIHAF area on the SFHA website please click here (Members Only)

 

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