Welfare reforms put pressure on housing

Board members SAC Councillors Ian Cavana and John Hampton and Pearl Boyd.
Board members SAC Councillors Ian Cavana and John Hampton and Pearl Boyd.

Ayrshire Housing’s chairman told members that it has enjoyed another successful albeit challenging year with welfare reform, declining living standards and less grants available putting pressure on all housing associations.

At its annual general meeting on September 11, chairman Paul Torrance said that it had now been 15 years since the organisation set up as South Ayrshire Homes and ten years since the merger with Carrick Housing Association.

He told the meeting that Ayrshire Housing now has 1500 properties and an “excellent reputation for services to its tenants and engagement with the community”.

Mr Torrance said: “Welfare reform, declining living standards and less grants for new building are putting pressure on every housing association.

“The Board is working hard to address these challenges. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this from a position of strength in terms of our finances, our committed staff and the positive links with many other organisations.”

“Welfare reform and the threat it poses to the wellbeing of many of our tenants is a real concern to us.

“Many of our working tenants are seeing their incomes fall as costs rise. In response, we’ve recruited a money advice officer to help our tenants get the benefits they are entitled to and generally to provide advice on budgeting.

“Also working in partnership with other Ayrshire landlords, we recently helped to set up a project with the 1st Alliance Credit Union. We hope this will benefit many of our tenants.”

“There were some positives for housing in John Swinney’s budget announcement.

“The increase in new build grant is welcome but it is still not sufficient for us to return to large scale housebuilding without unjustifiable increases in rents or service cuts.”

At the AGM, the result of the ballot for a tenant place on the board was announced.

Mr Torrance said he was delighted to welcome back Pearl Boyd, the board’s longest serving member.

The postal ballot was organised by the Electoral Reform Society with each candidate setting out their stall with a 50 -word statement.

The association has also teamed up with North Ayrshire Council and four other housing associations and the 1st Alliance Credit Union to help tenants prepare for changes brought in by welfare reform and the introduction of universal credit.

Known as the Ayrshire Financial Access Partnership (AFAP), the project offers assistance to tenants to help set up bank accounts and manage household budgets. The service will be open to the partners’ 22,000 tenants and their families.

Ayrshire Housing has also submitted a planning application to redevelop a former garage site in Ayr for housing.

If approved, we intend to build two, two-bedroom and four one-bedroom houses.

The single storey houses will be arranged in a courtyard to present an attractive prospect from the adjacent public park.

The design is by Austin-Smith:Lord.

All the houses are designed to suit a range of needs and will complement the predominately family houses in this popular neighbourhood.

It is hoped that construction will start next Spring.

2,000 tenants and their families.

Universal Credit will see tenants receive a single payment, once a month, paid directly into a bank account, with housing benefit included in that payment.