A NEW working group is to be set up by Scottish Borders Council to address “significant challenges” in ensuring its residents have access to a home.

Around 40 per cent of private property sales in the Borders go to households not currently resident within the region, senior councillors will be informed next week.

Across the UK, the housing system is widely acknowledged to be in a state of crisis, characterised by a dwindling supply, a consistent rise in demand for various housing types and escalating levels of unaffordability.

Within the Borders these problems have had a direct impact on property prices with substantial increases in recent years, significant increases in private rental levels and reducing housing availability, despite the social rent build programme.

At the same time, exacerbating the challenge, local wages have failed to keep pace with inflation.

Over the past 18 months the homeless service has been experiencing “unrelenting demand” from applicants requiring assistance with housing issues, including access to temporary accommodation.

When members of the council’s Executive Committee meet on Tuesday (May 14) they will be asked to agree the establishment a housing focused elected member and officer working group to meet biannually to “further support our local response to the housing challenges”.

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