New social housing boom long gone, says Fyne Homes boss

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THE days of Fyne Homes receiving up to £8 million a year from the public purse to build new homes on Bute and in the rest of Argyll are long gone and unlikely to return, the housing association’s chief executive said this week.

Speaking at the organisation’s AGM, Colin Renfrew warned that Bute had become “a victim of its own success” through the construction of so many new homes for rent and sale in recent years – and that the island was now very low on the list of priority areas for further housing investment as a result.

Mr Renfrew said it was very difficult to judge how much public funding would make its way to Argyll and Bute in the next few years, and warned there was “a distinct possibility that we may be going back to the dark days when there was no grant funding coming to Argyll and Bute” - and a “real danger” that the quality of the area’s housing stock might suffer as a result.

Fyne Homes, which owns social housing in Bute, Cowal, mid Argyll and Kintyre, received £8 million in grant funding in the 2007-8 financial year – a sum which has fallen to £2 million in 2011-12.

But the association is presently having to compete with bids from all over Scotland for a slice of the Scottish Government’s new Innovation and Investment Fund – and is far from certain that its only bid, for £600,000 to carry out the third phase of its new-build project on the site of the former Lochgilphead High School, will be successful.

“We have some hard, hard decisions to make on where we want to go in the future,” Mr Renfrew said. “There is still a high demand for social housing, but on Bute we are no longer seen as a priority area for investment in new homes – and nor are the other areas of Argyll and Bute where many of our properties are located.

“Scottish Government funds are very limited, and we don’t expect that situation to change any time soon.”

* More on this story in the next issue of The Buteman – on sale on Thursday, September 15.