CALLS are growing for Scottish Borders Council to declare a housing emergency.

When members of SBC’s Executive Committee met on Tuesday, May 14, they received a report outlining housing and homelessness pressures, with temporary housing at an all-time high and plans to build 184 affordable homes in the region over the next year unlikely to be achieved.

Meanwhile, the number of applications for social properties has doubled in five years – with Scottish Borders Housing Association receiving 104 bids for just five new homes at its latest development in Kelso.

Against that backdrop, executive member councillor Julie Pirone urged the authority to declare a housing emergency, in order to bring a sharp focus on the issues locally.

She said: “I am really concerned that we have a housing crisis and we are not declaring it. I would really like us as an Executive Committee today to declare a housing crisis, because every way we turn it is not an easy task and I  don’t know how we get around some of the issues we’ve got.

“We’ve got issues with Ukrainians being here, who want housing and want to stay in the Scottish Borders, which is fantastic, but we are struggling to find them homes.

“I’ve seen the affect in the Homelessness Service. It’s devastating for families to be in accommodation that is not really suitable. None of us would want to be in some of the places they are, but they have got no choice.

“At the same time we have still got lots of our own local people looking to move through the Registered Social Landlords outwith their own accommodation.

“We have young people who want to come back and live in the Borders and can’t afford any type of housing whatsoever, apart from moving back with mum and dad.

“I think that by declaring a crisis in housing then that moves us up a notch. That is not anything different from what councils across the country are doing but I think we really need to make sure that people grasp and understand that.

“We are a very rural area and people come here and see lots of beautiful hills and locations and they think we don’t have any problems like they have in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Perth, but we do, and it would be right for us as a council to stand up and say ‘we are also having this problem’.”

Members were informed that declaring a housing emergency can only happen with the agreement of full council.

It was agreed that a report be brought before the full council on the issue.

A report to the committee, approved by John Curry, the council’s executive director for infrastructure and environment, outlines some of the main challenges locally.

They include the fact that supply of homes cannot keep pace with a sustained increase in demand.

At the same time, there has been a significant increases in property values, at a rate well above national and local wage increases.

Construction prices have increased significantly since 2021 and there are significant labour/skills shortages across a range of professions and trades.

The most recent data also reveals that around 40 per cent of private property sales go to households not currently resident within the Scottish Borders.

The report adds: “Average house prices in the Borders remained steady up to 2019/20 then increased dramatically by 26 per cent between 2019/20 to 2022/23, rising from £176,841 to £222,875.

“Homeless services rely on Registered Social Landlords (RSL) for most permanent housing solutions for applicants.

“The availability of lets across the RSL sector has been moving in a downward trend over the past five years which has resulted in the length of time applicants must wait for a housing solution extending by a significant number of days.”

The report does note areas of improvement Including the expansion of the council’s empty homes service with the permanent appointment of an Empty Homes Officer who is “working effectively to bring disused properties back in to use”.

Meanwhile, developments at Melrose Gait, Kelso and Lauder are delivering private new build market homes.