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Worker accommodation in Shetland report published

02 September 2015

Potential measures to address a serious shortfall in workers’ accommodation in Shetland are to be addressed by the island’s Community Planning Partnership.

The partners will consider a new report, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which forecasts that recent pressures on workers’ accommodation are set to continue for the next decade, unless new homes are built and more local people acquire skills in construction and engineering.

The research assessed the likely demand for housing and accommodation from a number of industries and the public sector, over the next ten years. It makes it clear that despite the completion of the Shetland Gas Plant contract over the next few months, there will still be an ongoing need for accommodation in Shetland necessary to expand the workforce and support business growth. Businesses in Shetland and the public sector will still be constrained by a shortage of labour, in part, caused by accommodation shortages.

The report was commissioned to help people, communities, local government and businesses understand what the demand for housing is likely to be over the next ten years, and determine what measures can be taken to grow the workforce and support jobs and business growth.

It found that recent pressures will not be short lived. Although unmet demand for workers’ accommodation is projected to drop from a peak in 2014 – when approximately 3,000 extra workers were in Shetland, accommodation will still be required for between 500 and 1,500 extra workers every year to 2024.

A key issue is the lack of availability of private housing to rent or buy. The report states that there is a requirement of between 24 to 70 housing units per year for the next five years for the anticipated incoming private sector workforce.

Similarly there is a requirement for provision of 35 – 40 units of private housing to meet labour demand for the public sector for the same period. Additionally, at least 30 units will be required for a growing student population.

The report’s recommendations include encouraging the private sector to develop housing and worker accommodation in Shetland; and encouraging industry and training organisations to look at ways to support more local people into the construction and engineering sectors.

The implications of the report will be considered by the Shetland Community Planning Partnership to look at ways to reduce problems but also make the most of opportunities that may present themselves.

Rachel Hunter, Shetland Area Manager for HIE said “The shortage of accommodation in Shetland has no doubt held back economic growth and it is clear that there will be continuing pressure even after the completion of the Shetland Gas Plant. There will still be opportunities for the private sector in housing development and agencies in Shetland will be looking to work together to consider how we can help.”

The Shetland Worker Accommodation Report 2015, commissioned by HIE and undertaken by Steve Westbrook, AB Associates and Sandy Anderson is available to download at

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