A political row has broken out over Aberdeen council’s pledge to build 2,000 homes by 2022.
Aberdeen City Council’s ruling Labour and Conservative administration pledged in 2018 to build the homes within four years.
However, opposition SNP councillors have taken issue with a new council report written by the council’s chief officer for capital John Wilson.
The report said: “To date the council has delivered 179 units at Smithfield and Manor Walk.”
At a meeting of the council’s capital programme committee yesterday, the SNP’s Stephen Flynn said work began on those homes in 2016 – pre-dating the 2,000 homes pledge.
Mr Flynn said: “It appears these 179 properties pre-date the council meeting on May 23 2018 (when the pledge was made) by a significant period of time.
“I’m just curious as to why they are being included within a report on the 2,000-home pledge.”
Mr Wilson said: “My understanding is those 179 units are included within the 2,000.”
Mr Flynn replied: “I’m curious – should they be included in the 2,000?
“They probably shouldn’t be. There needs to be a logic so we’re not in a situation where we’re going for a target from 2018 and using figures from before 2018.
“We could probably go back 20 years and look at how many houses were built and say ‘these were delivered as part of the 2018 pledge’ if we wanted to – but I want this council to be delivering 2,000 homes from 2018 onwards.”
Mr Wilson said: “I can assure you, with the housing strategy that is being taken forward, there are going to be more than 2,000 potential units coming forward within the timeline.”
The council’s co-leader Jenny Laing said a briefing paper had been issued to committee members which indicated there would be 2,000 houses built between 2018 and 2021.
Mr Flynn replied: “There is obviously a commitment that these 2,000 units will be delivered by the end of this administration’s term in 2022 – should it last that long.
“Will 2,000 homes be opened and occupied by residents in 2022? I’m looking for a cast-iron guarantee.”
The committee’s convener Marie Boulton said: “I think a cast-iron guarantee – given the weather and everything else – is unrealistic.”
There was then an intervention from Ms Laing.
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She asked Mr Flynn, whose party administers the Scottish Government along with the Green Party: “I just wonder if we can get a cast-iron guarantee from the Scottish Government that they will provide financing along the levels we expect to deliver (the 2,000 homes) whether it is through revenue funding or capital funding?”
Mr Flynn asked officers at the meeting to confirm the Scottish Government had provided funding to the council that exceeded what had been expected “by a hefty amount”, which was confirmed by a council officer.
After Ms Laing said it would be beneficial if the Scottish Government could provide more funding, Mr Wilson told the committee there were opportunities for the council to “apply for more funding from the Scottish Government in relation to the houses already proposed”.
Detailing the progress of the local authority’s efforts to build the 2,000 homes, the report said the council has bought four housing units and is in the process of buying 37 more.
It added that: “Discussions for the purchase of approximately a further 86 units are currently ongoing with third parties.
“The council has entered into two contracts in Summerhill and Wellheads to deliver 652 units.”
The council is to carry out a number of site surveys for the units this winter, the report added.