West Lothian Council will spend over £80 million on housing over the next two years, with significant resources invested in the creation of new homes and a strong focus on the maintenance of quality standards across their housing stock.
The Housing Capital Investment Programme was approved at a meeting of West Lothian Council, alongside the approval of the Housing Revenue Account Budget for the same period.
The proposed two-year programme, running during the financial years 2021-22 and 2022-23 will see over £50 million invested to increase the social housing supply in the council area.
A total of 281 additional homes are expected to be complete by 2023 across a range of sites and areas, including 69 homes in Mossend, West Calder and a further 59 homes in Wester Inch, Bathgate.
The new homes will come in different sizes and style, with many being designed to support occupation by people with limited movement ability, including wheelchair users.
Built to modern standards, the homes will be constructed to meet national energy efficiency standards and will be well insulated, which should substantially reduce heating bills of tenants, while ensuring warmth and stable heat levels, as well as being more environmentally friendly.
Resources for the acquisition of former council houses through the Open Market Acquisition Scheme will continue to be incorporated into the programme, as the council continues to look at expanding its housing supply.
The new build project will continue to bring a number of benefits to the community, such as training and employment opportunities for apprentices, local people and businesses, and will continue to help tackle the high demand for affordable housing in West Lothian.
Provision has also been made to continue with the Mortgage to Rent scheme, which is a Scottish Government subsidy scheme to allow owners in extreme financial difficulty to sell their properties to the council and become council tenants.
The budget contains provision for improving and maintaining existing housing stock and ensuring that all properties are legally compliant, with approximately £30m to be split among a number of areas to achieve this.
A spend of over £14.5m is anticipated over the two-year period on a variety of compliance works, which include projects to deliver energy efficiency measures, central heating replacements, electrical testing and repair, external wall insulation upgrades and asbestos management projects.
The introduction of Scotland's Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) regulations means that any house in Scotland under the management of social landlords should meet a minimum energy rating and EESSH continues to be a major focus for the council’s project work.
There will also be continuing investment in external wall insulation to target work in council houses in areas of mixed tenure, in order to maximise economies of scale where homeowners receive support through the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS).
A continuation of the rent increase of 3% per annum for council homes and garages has also been approved by West Lothian Council as part of its Housing Revenue Account Budget.
This will help ensure continued investment in council housing infrastructure, improving existing homes and creating new affordable homes over the two-year timeframe.
Commenting, West Lothian Council’s Executive Councillor for Services for the Community, Councillor George Paul said: "West Lothian Council has for some time had one of the most ambitious strategies to meet demand for affordable social housing.
“This has not changed and this budget reinforces the council's commitment for increasing the availability of high quality social housing and ensuring a significant amount of investment is going towards the completion of the council's new build housing programme, with new homes being constructed across West Lothian and a number of houses being acquired in a drive to further increase the housing stock.”