Developing affordable housing

Kincardine Estate

The 1915 Rent Act meant that, by 1979, the majority of rural rented homes had been largely neglected for the best part of two generations of land managers. So it was on Kincardine Estate when Andrew Bradford took over management.

The average rent of the occupied properties was £2/week - barely sufficient to insure them let alone fund management, maintenance or improvement. As to their condition, many of the estate's houses were unlettable, while every one of the let houses were below an acceptable standard. Some of the occupied houses still didn't have internal sanitation or mains electricity.

By 1979 inflation had peaked at over 24%, but was very volatile while the Base Rate was 17%. Bank loans at around 25% p.a. didn't seem a good option when returns on rented property were much lower. Inevitably there was no cash. Andrew took the decision to sell some houses to produce capital with which to start the process of improvement.

Progress was glacially slow but gradually the improved properties began to produce increased rental income which was reinvested in repairs and improvements. By the mid-1990s, Andrew judged that interest rates were low and likely to remain low for the foreseeable future, so borrowed money with which to convert a farm building and build new housing for rent. At that time grants for market rental but not for affordable rented housing were available. To his surprise Andrew found himself making the case for lower rents with the National Housing Agency for Scotland – Scottish Homes – asserting that he should be charging higher rents. After some months, Andrew won the argument and grant was forthcoming.

Between 1994 and 1999 Andrew converted and built 21 extra homes, of which 18 were for affordable rent and three at market rent. With his awards-winning Canmore Place development he proved that the private sector could deliver 14 affordable rented homes for the same grant that would only deliver 8 houses through a housing association. His requests to roll-out that project, which could have delivered 75% more housing on the ground with no increase in public expenditure, across rural Scotland's estates were rejected by the authorities who have continued instead to pump around 99% of their housing budget through Registered Social Landlords (RSL). The various grants that were available to Andrew were gradually shut down.

Kincardine Estate now rents 67 full-time houses of which 61 are leased at affordable rent.