HOUSING minister Kevin Stewart was in the Borders this week to offer his support for ambitious plans to plug the social housing shortfall.

Eildon Housing and Hart Builders recently unveiled a partnership plan for at least 388 affordable homes on nine sites across the region over the next three years.

And this week Mr Stewart visited one of the first sites being developed at Sergeants Park in Newtown St Boswells to witness the partnership agreement being signed off.

The MSP said: “Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland - and our ambition to deliver 50,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of this Parliament will help to deliver this.

“I am therefore delighted that our support of Eildon Housing Association will help this innovative partnership with Hart Builders to provide 388 much needed affordable homes at nine sites across the Borders, and I’d like to congratulate all those involved in getting the first of these developments underway.

“I also welcome the news that over the next three years this building programme will deliver a wide range of benefits for local communities - including employment opportunities, schools’ initiatives and site based work experience.”

Handovers of the new homes will commence next spring once the first of the 115 houses at Sergeants Park are completed.

The partnership between Eildon and Hart is also looking to deliver at least 127 new homes in Galashiels from next year.

And plans are under way to redevelop the Tweedbridge Court in Peebles with a mix of 34 houses and flats.

A further 66 new homes will also be built on the site of the former Earlston High School.

And a 38 self-contained apartment extra care development for the elderly will be built in Galashiels.

Nile Istephan, chief executive of Eildon, told us: “Eildon is delighted to be taking forward this record breaking investment in our local communities.

"The social and economic impact of housing investment is truly transformational, and the scale of this investment will generate benefits for our communities for generations to come.

"We appreciate the grant support provided by the Scottish Government alongside our partnership arrangements with Scottish Borders Council, in taking this work forward.

"The scale of the programme, covering several years and being delivered across various sites, means that we are able to carefully plan the delivery of these new homes to make the maximum impact in terms of new homes and training and employment opportunities.

"We look forward to working with Hart Builders, their sub-contractors, our wider design teams, as well as SBHA, in delivering this ambitious programme.”

Both Eildon and hart Builders are working closely with Borders College to offer training and employment opportunities during the social housing developments.

And the partners are also looking to work with local communities to create a legacy in and around the earmarked sites.

Colin Macdonald, MD of Hart Builders in Edinburgh, added: "Working in partnership on nine sites over the next three years offers a unique opportunity to showcase the benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach to developing much needed affordable homes in the Borders.

"Many of the sites involved in the programme have challenging constraints that require innovative technical solutions which need tested to ensure buildability, affordability and long-term sustainability can be maximised.

"Equally important, our partnership also allows us to jointly develop a wide range of community benefits and offer local training and employment opportunities, capacity building for local businesses, schools initiatives, site based work experience in conjunction with DYW and Borders College and hopefully some interesting community projects which residents of all ages can be involved in.”