In this blog post, we share more details on what could well be one of our best free resources in our 25 years in business! Continue reading to find out more about how our downloadable aid, funded by Nationwide Foundation, can help you in your community housing project journey.
With our long-standing experience in delivering housing projects, we realise that embarking on a community housing project can be a non-linear process, and can sometimes come with trials and tribulations. You might be wondering where on earth you would even start the process!
Well, you will be glad to know that we have created a free Routemap, based on our experiences of working with over 100 different communities, to walk you through the 5 main stages of a community-led housing project.
Our free resource, which helps to demystify the stages of community-led housing projects, is the first guide of the sort to be available in Scotland. After all, "communities can have more control over housing with the right tools".
We understand that these projects can feel overwhelming and complicated, even more so for communities with limited time and resources. In the words of our CEO, our resource is "based on sound and varied experience". Our resource aims to provide communities with a more robust understanding in a way that empowers them to play a leading role in solving housing problems while creating affordable homes.
So, what are these 5 stages? Although the process itself might not always be simple and straightforward, understanding the stages will inevitably make the process less daunting and enable you to visualise the project from start to finish.
Stage 1: Enquiry
This stage is all about establishing the aspirations and requirements and assessing needs while considering possible funding solutions, engaging with the community and offering information and advice.The starting block of the community-led project.
Stage 2: Feasibility
This stage moves on from the initial stages to start getting surveys and land audits arranged, finalising funding and getting a formal business plan in place.
Stage 3: Development
We then develop into securing funding for any legal fees and land acquisition, arranging route to tender for the project and applying for planning and pre-construction consents.
Stage 4: Construction
Then the manual work begins. We commence the building phase of the project, continuing to liaise with contractors and the community, before handing over the properties, and of course, celebrating the build by having a community open day!
Stage 5: Housing Management
The final stage is when we advertise and allocate properties to their new community owners. Residents move in and this stage continues with ongoing housing management and maintenance.
Our RouteMap covers this information in more detail and answers some of the more frequently asked questions for you. We take a holistic and creative approach that goes beyond simply housing, but making and maintaining real communities with local amenities.
Ready to start bringing your community housing project to life? Download our Routemap here.
As Communities Housing Trust nears a monumental business anniversary, we look back at a number of historic successes from the last decade that have cemented the strong foundations of our organisation today.
Nationwide Foundation set up their Empty Homes Fund in late 2013. You can get more of an up-to-date view in our fact sheet.
The Rent to Buy scheme, which launched in 2011 allowed people to rent a new home for 5 years whilst saving up for a deposit. In 2014, the initiative saw a significant boost of £3 million, and in it's time, provided a total of 63 homes. Read the fact sheet here.
In 2015, we were announced as one of the 10 finalists in the 2015 World Habitat Awards with our Rent to Buy Scheme named as one of the top 10 projects of its kind worldwide. Given this body celebrates many innovative and revolutionary housing ideas on a global scale, this remains one of our proudest accolades.
2016 saw the introduction of the Highland Self Build Fund, a much needed solution to the gap in the lending market at the time. The Highlands were exclusively chosen to pilot the scheme in its early stages but has since expanded to the whole of Scotland, and loans increased from £150,000 to £175,000.
Margaret Burgess, the Minister for Housing and Welfare, praised it for being a housing model which would allow people to put their own stamp on their abode.
“Self and custom build offers an important means of increasing housing supply while allowing customers input into the design of their new home."
The Rent to Buy Scheme had further endorsement in September, 2016 when it was one of four projects to be nominated for a Rural Innovators Award, run by Scottish Rural Action.
One of the premises of the Rural Housing Fund is the opportunity for communities to transform buildings into homes. A school house in Wester Ross, which had laid empty for 5 years, was renovated into 2 affordable flats in 2017. It was not only one of the original beneficiaries of the fund, but it was the first project to be completed with this aid, hence why it was such a highlight of 2017.
We recognised our business growth around this time, with the team growing from 3 to 11 full-time members.
2018 saw the launch of the Dr & Mrs J Steven Faulds Memorial Fund.
This was a breakthrough advancement in housing in instances where it was almost impossible for families to get support from a bank or building society to buy a building plot. Those eligible for this fund include people with a permanent connection to the local community (especially those in the Scottish Islands), those in remote rural locations with a population of less than 500 and those in insecure tenancies/unsuitable housing.
The fund is still open today and you can apply by contacting us.
In 2019, we presented some findings after undertaking a housing needs assessment study in Assynt, in the north-west Highlands. Now, momentum on this project is gathering again. We look forward to reporting on this project in the future, especially as it is a flagship community-led development for the area.
Aside from pushing on developing projects in spite of lockdown, 2020 saw our rebrand from Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to Communities Housing Trust. Having felt a spike in demand for our services around this time, we recognised that we needed to better reflect the reality of serving communities beyond the Highland region. With offices in Inverness, Oban and Perth, we were leading community housing at a national level, rather than just regionally.
In 2021, the Self Build Loan Fund faced an extension having seen that public interest in the fund rose by 153% over 2020. Additionally, in 2021, more funding was added to the pot as it surpassed the allocation of £5 million worth of loans.
"Self-build is sometimes the only option to stay in your own community, whether young or old, where housing is limited and developers won’t build"
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust
“Self-provided housing can play an important role in supporting potentially fragile communities and smaller building firms, particularly in rural areas.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison
The Rothiemurchus housing development, which succeeded without any public subsidy, won the Rural Housing Award at the Scottish Land & Estates Helping It Happen Awards. The same project also saw success in the Chartered Institue of Housing (CIH) Scotland Housing Awards 2021 where it won the 'Excellence in Housing Innovation' category.
2022 saw great success in the Actercairn, Applecross and Staffin communities in particular.
Firstly, the Achtercairn regeneration project was shortlisted for the Scottish Civic Trust My Place Award. Not only this, but the project saw international recognition at the European Responsible Housing Awards (part of the International Social Housing Festival in Helsinki). Here, we won the 'More Than A Roof' category, which gives a nod to the range of positive social impacts the project has on the community.
This success can be attributed to one of the development's public buildings, which happened to be the first of Scotland's public buildings to be awarded the Passivhaus status. Additionally, the development as a whole is an exemplary model of a climate-friendly "20-Minute Neighbourhood" wherby key services and amenities are close to home.
All these achievements came in soon after the large-scale Gairloch development being shortlisted for best Regeneration Project of the UK-wide Inside Housing Development Awards 2021 and winning the 'Excellence in Regeneration' category at the Scottish Housing Awards 2021.
Staffin, a crofting community on the Isle of Skye, experienced many factors contributing to significant depopulation. Just one part of Communities Housing Trusts work here involved replacing an existing building (unfit for purpose) with a new health centre to be leased to NHS Highland. From a housing standpoint, the project was of benefit to a total of 20 residents.
Communities Housing Trust in Applecross moved residents into the first affordable homes built in the area in over 18 years.
2023 and beyond
The last few months have seen the publishing of case studies of some of the exciting community-led housing projects we've undertaken. That includes Colonsay, Tomintoul and Balmaha near Loch Lomond.
Just recently, we were delighted to hear of the funding announcement from the Scottish Government and the Nationwide Foundation of a 3 year funding package for both Communities Housing Trust and South of Scotland Community Housing. Through securing this funding, we can futher assist in providing early-stage support to a wider range of rural communities facing extreme housing pressures, and facilitate even more projects of the same calibre as the past 25 years.
Come and celebrate our 25th anniversary at our free event!
22nd September 2023 - Leonardo Hotel, Inverness
Check out the day's programme below:
Are you enthusiastic about self-buld/renovation projects?
16th September 2023 - Macdonald Aviemore Resort
At this free-to-attend event, you can attend seminars throughout the day, with topics ranging from converting heritage projects, investigating energy efficient heating and cooling systems and exploring integrating smart technology into your home.
It's a great opportunity to swap months of scouring the internet for face-to-face advice!
The Communities Housing Trust has been awarded £94,490 from The Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Fund to take forward a project to provide new affordable homes and woodland crofts in Glengarry, to help repopulate the glen.
Inverness-based charity the Communities Housing Trust and Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW) are undertaking a shared vision for a two-phase community-led project in Lower Ardochy Forest, where access to both housing and land were highlighted as important issues during a community consultation process in 2020.
In this first phase of the project, the Communities Housing Trust will provide two new woodland crofts with housing as well as four additional homes for affordable rent. Over 19 hectares (47 acres) was purchased by the Communities Housing Trust from Forestry and Land Scotland. The new funding from the Community Regeneration Fund will allow the Trust to develop a masterplan for the land with the appointed design team Catoe/Brown Architecture & Landscape studio and engineers Cameron +Ross before applying for and obtaining the necessary consents.
An allocation policy will be applied to the homes, prioritising people who live locally or who can bring skills to the area. The homes and crofts will also be protected to ensure their benefits are retained within the community upon any future change of occupants.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are extremely pleased to see this crucial repopulation project move forwards. The model will demonstrate positive land use and stewardship in a way that benefits the environment, the local economy, and the ongoing sustainability of the area. We hope this becomes a beacon for what’s possible for other rural communities to look to.”
Woodland crofts are crofts with sufficient tree cover overall to be considered woodland. The model, based on management of the forest, can support low-carbon lifestyles and livelihoods. The new crofts will be established with the support of the Woodland Crofts Partnership, and will bring the total number of woodland crofts applied for or registered by community groups to over 30, a significant proportion of all new crofts created in recent years.
Jamie McIntyre, from the Woodland Crofts Partnership said: “Community groups are leading the way on the creation of woodland crofts but we need a lot more of them to satisfy the demand that exists, so we hope that this innovative approach of working in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust will help groups deliver that expansion.”
Following a Community Asset Transfer from Forestry and Land Scotland in 2022, a neighbouring site owned by Glengarry Community Woodlands will also provide four further woodland crofts. Both of the sites will be managed as an integrated project, and received funding from the Scottish Land Fund for a variety of development work including a new Woodland Management Plan.
Ross Lynn, chairwoman of Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW), said: "The one issue that is holding back the development of our community is the lack of access to housing that people can afford to either buy or rent. Because of this issue, our community is losing young, skilled people, who we need to fulfill vital roles locally, so we are delighted to be working with the Communities Housing Trust and Woodland Crofts Partnership on the project at Ardochy’’.
James Catoe from Catoe/Brown said: “As a young practice catoe/brown is very excited to be involved in a project with a clear net benefit to the local community. Redressing the balance of available, affordable housing and land in the Highlands is a key driver behind what we do, and by working alongside CHT, GWC and the WCP this is exactly what will be achieved here.”
Edward Brown further added: “We are currently developing sustainable housing designs that reflect the woodland locality, utilise local resources and are affordable for tenants to run. These will be incorporated into a masterplan that focuses on woodland crofting and sustainable land use. ”
A community drop-in event is planned for Saturday 27 May in the meeting room of Glengarry Community Hall from 11am – 3pm to meet the partners and design team to view and discuss the initial plans.
Assynt Development Trust (ADT) has been awarded £114,000 to take forward the community-led development of affordable homes and community facilities on former glebe land between Lochinver and Glencanisp.
ADT has received £44,000 from The Highland Council’s Community Regeneration Fund, £50,000 from Crown Estate Scotland, a further £10,000 from The Highland Council and £10,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural and Islands Housing Fund.
The funds will allow ADT to undertake a comprehensive feasibility study and for a design team to develop plans for affordable housing and wider uses on the site.
Nigel Goldie, Chair of ADT notes the issue of more affordable housing has been at the top of its list of priorities since its inception in 2018. He said: “The Board are excited to now be taking forward this significant development. We believe this will be a game changer for housing development in Assynt and create wider opportunities bringing economic and social benefits. We have the land on which to do much more than housing, and we will be looking for opportunities to bring the benefits of community ownership to the wider community.”
A steering group of local organisations is collaborating to map out the full potential of the site, which will include around 10 affordable homes in the first phase. Wider site uses may include a path network, enterprise work units, woodland crofts, and education and training facilities. A longer-term proposal for further affordable housing is being considered. Steering group members include the Assynt Foundation, Assynt Community Council, Lochinver Primary, Church of Scotland Minister, Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape, Ullapool High School and the Woodland Croft Partnership.
Award-winning architects Oberlanders have been appointed to take forward the plans and undertake design work and feasibility study.
They said: “We are delighted to be involved with this project, with the potential to bring such positive benefit to Lochinver. While we are familiar with the challenges of rural construction in the Highlands, we strongly value the ambition to develop sustainable affordable housing aligned with integrated community projects. The Glebe and Glencanisp sites include complex ecological environments of national importance, within which we are progressing appropriate and sensitive proposals with an experienced team of designers.”
The 55-acre site was purchased by the community from the Church of Scotland in 2021 with funds from the Scottish Land Fund. The Communities Housing Trust supported the community with the land acquisition, and will act as development agent for the project.
In 2019, a housing needs assessment undertaken by the Communities Housing Trust on behalf of ADT showed strong demand for affordable housing for all ages, and also particularly from businesses requiring accommodation for staff. With around 27% of housing in the area used as holiday accommodation or second homes according to the 2011 census, the vast majority of the 165 survey respondents believed that people living or working locally should be given priority for the homes.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are extremely pleased to see this crucial project gather momentum. This community-led development will be a flagship for the Lochinver area, meeting a range of needs and also acting as a model for other rural or island communities across Scotland. Being responsive to needs and tailoring in this way is absolutely crucial to ensuring ongoing economic and social sustainability of our rural places.”
A community drop-in event is planned for Tuesday 25 April at Lochinver Village Hall from 3-7pm to meet the architects and view and discuss the initial plans.
Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) plans to purchase three acres at the former Hydroponicum site in Achiltibuie, with grant support from the Scottish Land Fund.
The purchase, to be negotiated with the sellers, will allow the community to build around 10 affordable homes as well as provide community green space. It would mark a decade-long attempt for CCDC to buy land to provide much-needed homes.
The project follows a survey on housing need undertaken last year by the Communities Housing Trust on behalf of CCDC, which showed high demand for affordable homes. In particular, families and individuals need to upsize or downsize but currently cannot due to lack of housing, and workers struggle to either find or remain in stable, secure housing.
The Communities Housing Trust will continue to help facilitate the land purchase and development process.
The initial ideas are to provide around 10 community-owned affordable homes with a range of tenures, as well as allow access through the site which stretches from the road down to the sea, to provide shoreline walks and more options for community paths.
The former Hydroponicum site in Achiltibuie, July 2022
Local support for community ownership of the site and initial plans has been overwhelmingly positive. In October last year, around 60 people gave feedback at a community event, where one resident commented:
“100% support this proposal. I could not think of a more perfect project for this land! You have my full support and cannot wait for this to hopefully go through. Exactly what we desperately need for Coigach, makes me feel hopeful that our community will survive and grow."
Richard Williams, Chair of Coigach Community Development Company, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Scottish Land Fund for this grant which we hope will now allow us the rare opportunity to purchase a piece of land at the centre of our village, proving a real game changer for Coigach.
“Once in community ownership we have ambitious plans to transform this site for the long-term benefit of Coigach – by constructing a range of housing types and tenures, realising a long-held goal and key aspiration for the community.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working again with CCDC following the restoration of the Old Schoolhouse six years ago into affordable flats for local residents. We hope the land sale settles swiftly as this has been a long road for CCDC and this new project will provide not just affordable housing, but wider social and economic community benefits too. Our thanks to the Scottish Land Fund for continuing to support community-led projects in rural areas and congratulations to the community on this positive step!”
We're hiring! Come and join the team:
Community Led Housing Officer
Full time (35hpw)
£31,518 to £34,456
This role will provide support to communities and organisations seeking to develop affordable housing, working on projects from inception through to end of construction. Assisting with business planning and funding applications are key duties of this post along with liaising with multiple stakeholders and general awareness raising of community led housing.
For full job description, person specification and application form, please visit the Recruitment page.
Deadline for applications is Thursday 13 April, with interviews on Thursday 20 April.
A once in a generation opportunity: the first affordable homes in 20 years tackle the need for long-term residential homes, and will help the island thrive into the future.
The Inner Hebridean island with a population of 125 faced a dilemma of increasing holiday- and second-homes, fewer available homes for residents, and pressure on island services.
In response, Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) is leading the much-needed project to provide homes and new business opportunities, with support from the Communities Housing Trust.
The initial development of nine new affordable homes just outside Scalasaig and close to the ferry terminal is expected to be complete in autumn 2023. The properties will be allocated according to island priorities and are a mix of affordable rent and discounted sale, as well as discounted self-build plots. A second phase of further affordable housing is planned by CCDC.
Several homes for Mowi staff also form part of the development, which will return to the community if and when they’re no longer needed. Nearby, two new community-owned commercial units are being built as workshop or studio space, to enable existing businesses to grow or new ones to start up.
Applications are now open for all properties, with a deadline of Sunday 19 March for the self-build plots and houses for sale, and a deadline of Sunday 2 July for the rental properties.
People in the island or with local connections to the area through work or family will be prioritised, as a way to promote the ongoing sustainability of island communities. People from outwith the island with particular skillsets and who wish to live and work in Colonsay and contribute to island life are also invited to apply.
There are four 2-3 bedroom homes available for affordable rent, two 2-3-bedroom homes for discounted sale, and three discounted self-build plots.
The Rural Housing Burden is applied to the self-build plots which gives full ownership, and applies a discount percentage in perpetuity which protects the ongoing affordability for the local community.
In 2020, CCDC purchased two plots of land with funds from the Scottish Land Fund, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Argyll and Bute Council, and Mowi, who will fund the provision of houses for their staff. Further funding for the construction phase has been obtained through Rural and Islands Housing Fund, Argyll & Bute Council’s Strategic Housing Fund, Inspiring Scotland, the £2m Islands Green Recovery Programme (Prògram Ath-Shlànachaidh Uaine nan Eilean), Local Energy Scotland’s CAREs fund and the CCDC’s own very successful Crowdfunding campaign. HIE and Regeneration Capital Grant Fund are funding the business unit build.
Dannie Onn, Director of CCDC said: “On behalf of the Colonsay community, CCDC is looking forward to housing our homeless folk and welcoming new people and families to this beautiful island. We hope they will be part of a fresh impetus for building opportunities for work and life here as part of a sustainable community. It has taken a while to get here, but the legal and financial incentives put in place by the Scottish Government to promote sustainable, self-reliant communities on the Scottish Islands looks to be paying off in Colonsay."
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for islanders or folk really keen to move to Colonsay. With the homes and the business units, it’s the full package to provide a secure, long-term future for individual families, as well as the island itself. We’d like to particularly thank the Scottish Government for their funding support.
“CCDC’s dedication to this project and community is inspiring, and a positive example to other rural and island populations which may be struggling. Community-led projects can really make a world of difference to sustaining a community for generations to come.”
For further details of the properties and to apply, please visit: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/current-opportunities.html.
Construction work has begun on a community-led development of five homes and five self-build plots in the main village of Inverarish.
Raasay Development Trust is leading the project with support from the Communities Housing Trust.
The development will include two homes for social rent with Lochalsh & Skye Housing Association, and three community-owned homes for affordable rent with Raasay Development Trust. There will also be five affordable self-build plots available, two with Raasay Development Trust and three with the Communities Housing Trust. All the plots will be discounted with the Rural Housing Burden, which assures affordability in perpetuity for the local community.
Raasay has seen a recent increase in demand for affordable housing, with 32 people on the Highland Housing Register waiting list. These new and much-needed homes will prioritise people with a link or need to live on the island.
Chair of Raasay Development Trust, Iain Hector Ross said: “Raasay has a clear and present need for new affordable housing stock to meet the growing demand from young islanders choosing to stay and others wanting to move to the island for increasing work opportunities. We are fortunate that the island is enjoying an era of growing economic confidence and opportunity, where young people now see a long-term future for themselves here. Quality housing is vital to support that future and we hope that the delivery of these new homes is just the first step towards providing every young islander with an affordable option.”
The community-owned site was purchased by Raasay Development Trust from North Raasay Sheep Stock Club, with funding from the Scottish Land Fund in 2020.
Further key funding has been provided by the Scottish Government’s Rural & Islands Housing Fund, and the Ecology Building Society, who may also be able to provide mortgages for the self-build homes.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison said: “It’s great to see work start on this project on Raasay. Supported by over £1.1 million from Scottish Government, this project will provide huge benefit to the local community and make a real and lasting difference to the lives of the new residents.
“We are proud to have delivered over 6,000 affordable homes over the last parliament in rural and island communities. Our Programme for Government includes a commitment to continue to work towards an increased target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 with at least 10% of these to be in our remote, rural and island communities. This reinforces the importance we place on the role of affordable housing in rural and island communities, with record levels of funding made available and a commitment to publish a Remote, Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan to help attract and retain people in these communities.”
Jon Lee, Community Housing Lead at Ecology Building Society, said: “We’re excited once again to work alongside the other funders to support this development on Raasay. Providing funding for affordable, energy efficient, community-led housing and to encourage sustainable self-build particularly chimes with our mission to build a greener society.”
Skye-based James MacQueen Building Contractors began construction work on site this week, and it is expected that the work will be complete in summer 2024. They said: “We are delighted and proud to be building high quality sustainable, modern homes for the community of Raasay. We use the most up to date heating technology in our builds which will help with the cost of living, making these houses even more affordable to run in the long term. It is exciting to deliver this vital energy-efficient housing, providing young islanders and locals the opportunity to stay on the island and help strengthen the community and economy they belong to.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “This development will provide homes for 10 families and help stop outward migration from the island, as well as helping the school and wider community to thrive. The project has been driven by the community and it’s a milestone for the island. We’d like to thank the Scottish Government for their funding support through which local businesses and the economy can also benefit, and is therefore creating more resilient island communities.”
Dr Audrey Sinclair, Chair of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association said: “I am delighted that this project will start in Autumn this year. The joint working amongst Raasay Development Trust, Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association has to be applauded in reaching this stage. It is so important for our communities to achieve their visions and affordable housing has a fundamental part to play in making a positive impact on community sustainment.”
To express interest in the homes or self-build plots, please register your details at: www.chtrust.co.uk/future-opportunities.htm
This is the last in a series of monthly blogs about community-led housing in Scotland, jointly written by Mike Staples, Chief Executive at South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), and Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive at Communities Housing Trust (CHT). Between us we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across Scotland, providing well over 1,000 affordable homes.
We’ve spent the last 12 months illustrating the different benefits of community-led housing by featuring delivered projects across Scotland. This is our final blog – for now – and we simply wish to underline the many and deep-rooted impacts projects can have when led by the needs and wishes of communities themselves. Even one or two homes make a big difference in communities by helping them become more inclusive, resilient, and prepared for the future.
It’s not a theory, or just a nice idea on paper, but proven in practice – see our gallery for examples of developments.
What are the benefits of community-led housing?
Beyond providing forever affordable homes, protected for use by local communities as assets that communities can use to acheive broader economic and social changes, community-led housing is also:
All this with just a few houses!
As such, community-led development fulfils human rights commitments and future planning agendas, as well as many other Scottish Government policies linked to the list above. We believe it should be at the core of policy decisions in Scotland going forward.
We’ve seen coverage and understanding of community-led housing in Scotland grow over the past few years, with continued support from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Land Fund and Rural Housing Fund. Politicians are now more aware of how community-led housing delivers on national targets and community needs—so why not scale it up?
SOSCH and CHT’s work in Scotland is being recognised internationally as models for responsible housing, and shared in European knowledge exchange networks. Just last week, projects that CHT & SOSCH supported made up all three finalists for the ‘Housing & Regeneration’ category of the SURF Awards, underscoring the notable contributions of community-led housing to places up and down the country.
Scotland is well-positioned to expand community-led housing developments, as a leader in the field.
On behalf of communities, we are asking for further support from the Scottish Government and other funders, into normalising community-led housing as a key option for Scotland, particularly in rural and island areas where communities lack capacity to undertake projects themselves.
These blogs have highlighted what communities are achieving through community-led housing, and we ask for recognition and scaled-up funding—for both communities and support organisations—to keep more of these projects coming.
Here’s to realising more community dreams in 2023 and beyond!
17 NEW AFFORDABLE HOMES IN KILBEG DEVELOPMENT
Work on the first new village in Skye in over 100 years begins this week with project partners Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - The National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, The Highland Council and the Communities Housing Trust.
This community-led project will see 17 new affordable homes built as part of the wider Kilbeg Village development in Sleat: 6 homes for social rent with The Highland Council as well as 8 affordable homes and 3 discounted self-build plots with the Communities Housing Trust.
The homes will be a mix of discounted rent and sale, and will include family homes, level-access and wheelchair accessible homes. An adjacent private development by James MacQueen’s Ltd is due to follow shortly after, providing a further 14 flats.
Around 100 homes in total are expected to be built over time, tackling housing needs for all age groups in the community as well as supporting intergenerational living, cultural community spirit and alleviating social isolation.
Given its proximity to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, it is expected that the development will attract Gaelic speakers or learners of all ages, however, the homes will be open to all with a need to live or work in the area.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Chairman, Angus Macleod said: “Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is proud to be spearheading the ambitious Kilbeg project that helps address the chronic need for housing, and aligns with our core aims to support the Gaelic language, culture and local economy.
“This is a great opportunity for those with an affinity to the language and culture to apply to live in accessible, affordable housing in the new Kilbeg community next to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s vibrant campus, where language and culture is shared across generations.”
This next phase follows the Communities Housing Trust’s previous provision of two affordable Rent To Buy homes on the Kilbeg site, now home to two young families.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust, said: "We are extremely excited to be part of this ground-breaking community-led project which will also provide bespoke affordable housing for the elderly and promote intergenerational living. The planned development in Kilbeg is unique in Scotland, in that it will provide a model for a mix of ages and tenures, providing opportunities for older people and younger families to support each other which also takes into account the importance of culture and heritage. Repopulating and regenerating the area in this way makes sense, and helps to ensure long-term future sustainability of the community.”
The development has received funding from the Scottish Government’s Rural & Islands Housing Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Partnership Programme, The Highland Council, Scottish Funding Council and the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Development Trust.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP commented on a visit to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (pictured above): “It’s been great to see the hard work that has been going into this development, which will help ensure that Gaelic continues to thrive in this community.
“The Scottish Government recognises the important role that Gaelic has in Scotland’s culture and economy. I look forward to seeing this development grow and the positive impact it will have on local communities in Skye.”
Housing Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is fantastic to see work start on this project in Kilbeg. Working with the Communities Housing Trust and The Highland Council and supported by over £1.2 million from Scottish Government, this project will deliver high quality, affordable homes, that will meet people’s needs and allow them to live independently, whilst remaining in their community.
“These homes will support our commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be for social rent and 10% in remote, rural and island communities.
The Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee Chair, Cllr Ken Gowans said: “Creating a community-led new village in Skye for the first time in over 100 years is pioneering, ambitious and pivotal to the Skye and Raasay Future (SARF) plan. The Kilbeg development has community, heritage and culture at its forefront and this innovative approach to intergenerational community living, could well be a catalyst for other areas across Highland. It’s great that construction can begin at Kilbeg and we look forward to working in close partnership with the Communities Housing Trust and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig throughout the Kilbeg village development.”
The homes will be close to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the local primary school and nursery. Also nearby is the local Medical Centre and GP Practice, Café Ostaig and the local community-owned shop at Armadale, which can be accessed by a local community transport service for the elderly.
To express interest in the homes, please register your details at:
Construction work has begun this week on a community-led development of 10 affordable homes in Arisaig.
Arisaig Community Trust is leading the project with support from the Communities Housing Trust.
The development on Station Road will include six community-owned homes for affordable rent and four self-build plots, managed by the Communities Housing Trust. All the plots will be discounted with the Rural Housing Burden, which assures affordability in perpetuity for the local community. All the homes will prioritise people with a need to live or work locally.
In the small community of around 300, an extensive survey in 2018 showed a strong need for housing current residents and incoming workers with key skills, which was set to increase over the following years.
In 2019, residents and local businesses were invited to community workshops about the proposed housing, where there was overwhelming support for energy-efficient, affordable homes with a variety of tenures to meet local needs and budgets.
Arisaig Community Trust then purchased the 2-acre site in 2021 with funding from the Scottish Land Fund. Further funding for the development has been given through the Scottish Government’s Rural & Islands Housing Fund, the Rural Communities Fund, the Quaker Housing Trust, and The Highland Council.
Full planning permission was granted in October, and contractors S&K Macdonald began work on site this week.
Pamela King, Project Officer for the Arisaig Community Trust said: “We have been very grateful for the support of the Communities Housing Trust and our funding partners in enabling the project to reach this stage. Affordable homes are needed more than ever and it is very exciting to think about the individuals and families who will benefit from this project when they are complete. We have full confidence that S+K MacDonald Homes will deliver fantastic new houses for the village of Arisaig and look forward to seeing things progress over the next year.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “This development will provide much-needed homes for 10 families, supporting the continued growth of local services and businesses and helping the wider community to thrive. The project has very much been driven by Arisaig Community Trust and people locally, and we are delighted to help in achieving their aims. We’d like to thank the Scottish Government for their continued funding support for rural community-led developments such as this one.”
To express interest in the homes or self-build plots, please register your details at: www.chtrust.co.uk/future-opportunities.html
The Scottish Government is committed to introducing a new Land Reform Bill to Parliament by the end of 2023. Key proposals for the forthcoming Bill, contained in a recent consultation paper titled ‘Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation’, focus on imposing statutory requirements on large-scale rural landholdings, partly defined by Government as landholdings exceeding a minimum threshold of 3,000 hectares.
The Government proposes that such landholdings be subject to a public interest if they are to be transferred into new ownership by sale or other means. It also proposes that they should be subject to compulsory Land Management Plans, and a duty to comply with the currently voluntary Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. The Government further proposes a requirement on the part of owners of such landholdings to provide prior notification of their intention to sell their holdings, to eradicate ‘off-market’ rural land sales that limit opportunities for community ownership.
Lowering the minimum threshold for landholdings from 3,000 hectares to 500 hectares for the above proposals, and considerably lower still for the ‘prior notification of intention to sell’ requirement, would greatly enhance the likelihood of them addressing the lack of affordable housing contributing to the depopulation and demographic crisis facing many economically fragile rural communities.
The new Land Reform Bill could also help tackle the lack of affordable homes in rural communities by amending the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 to introduce a new-use category in the land-use planning system, as previously proposed by Andy Wightman when the Planning Bill was going through Parliament. That would enable planning authorities to classify homes as primary residences, second homes or holiday lets, with planning permission being required for a change of use.
Community-led housing provision has long been a distinctive feature of community land ownership in rural Scotland, with both the Communities Housing Trust and South of Scotland Community Housing playing crucial roles in facilitating its delivery. The forthcoming Land Reform Bill therefore also needs to amend the suite of existing Community Rights to Buy to ensure they fit for the purpose of bringing more land and assets into community ownership to help provide more of that housing.
There is now an opportunity to take a genuinely joined-up approach to land reform and community-led housing development by including the above measures in the forthcoming Land Reform Bill. All the more so, if they are aligned with rural housing planning policy detailed in the recently published draft National Planning Framework 4 and the future Community Wealth Building Bill that is also on the Government’s legislative radar.
Self-builders who are unable to access standard bank lending can now apply for a loan of up to £175,000 to help with the development costs of their home.
The Self-Build Loan Fund reopens for applications on Monday 21 November and aims to support the delivery of good quality and energy efficient housing, giving people more choice about the homes they want to live in.
Following the success of a pilot scheme in the Highlands the fund was launched nationally in 2018, with loans worth a total of £6.2 million enabling 41 families to build homes from the Borders to Shetland.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison said:
“This fund aims to unlock the dream of building your own home, in many cases allowing people to stay in their local communities. We know it can be more difficult to access finance for self-build projects than for buying an existing property, and this fund is a crucial lifeline for those unable to access standard bank lending. When loans are repaid, the money can be re-used, during the life of the fund, supporting more self-builders and providing more homes for future generations.
“Self-provided housing can play an important role contributing to the long-term sustainability of our rural and island communities, and this £6 million Scottish Government fund will continue to help support this. It has had great success in the Highlands and Islands and has also provided dream homes for people living across the whole of Scotland.
“Wherever you live, if you’re interested in building your own home I’d encourage you to contact the Communities Housing Trust to find out more.”
Kirsten, a school teacher from Shetland who benefitted from the fund, said:
“We acquired our plot of land over 20 years ago. At that point there was an old croft house on the land which we initially planned to renovate. However, several things arose to hinder our plans. The most significant was my partner becoming long-term disabled after an accident. This meant a lot of disruption to our build plans.
“If the fund hadn’t been available we would have had to stop our build altogether and sell the plot of land. That would have meant it being harder for us to get onto the property ladder. It can be difficult or more costly to find a property that has larger living accommodation needed for wheelchair use. It may also have taken us away from our home area where family are nearby. I don’t know what we would have done without this fund.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust, said:
“In the years we’ve administered the fund, we’ve seen demand rise as conditions become even more challenging for people to build their own home. In many cases, families just need a bit of extra support and are fully able to build and then repay the loan.
“Self-build remains an important option for many, particularly in areas where no other options exist, so we are extremely grateful to the Scottish Government for continuing to provide the fund.”
The fund is reopening on 21 November 2022 after closing on 31 August 2022 to new applications.
The Self-Build Loan Fund is administered on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Communities Housing Trust.
The administration fees borrowers will pay to secure their loan is £895.
The interest rate for the loan is 5.5% (9% for those in default). The agreed repayment period will depend on the nature of the project, but the loan is intended to be short-term and repaid on completion of the build.
This blog is part of a monthly series about community-led housing in Scotland, jointly written by Mike Staples, Chief Executive at South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), and Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive at Communities Housing Trust (CHT). Between us we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across Scotland, facilitating well over 1,000 affordable homes.
Between 2009 and 2013, 40 people left the small Gaelic-speaking crofting community of Staffin in the north of Skye. This was a 6.6% population drop in four years.
The James Hutton Institute forecasts a quarter of the population of the North West Highlands and the Southern Uplands declining within the next 25 years, unless action is taken.
We know what the picture looks like across the country: young people unable to find suitable accommodation so being forced to leave their communities or unable to return after education (nearly half of all young people will be leaving the Highlands & Islands in the next five years, according to a new report by HIE. In the south of Scotland, the proportion of young and working-age people has been declining since 1992 and is projected to decrease significantly in the next seven years).
Likewise, families are unable to find housing, which removes working-age people from already stretched communities, leaving services and businesses struggling.
The demographics are crucial: with ageing population predictions across most areas of rural Scotland, we’re looking at diverging even more from thriving, diverse and self-sustaining communities.
So, faced with this depopulation and demographic crisis, what are communities doing about it?
Lots, in a word. They’re looking at the whole picture, tackling repopulation from a range of angles.
No to one-size-fits-all
Firstly, there’s the need to tailor solutions to the specific needs of each community. Targeting exactly what’s needed in different rural and island communities means they can grow and adapt for the future in the ways they need to. For example, including more affordable family housing to keep young, working families in their hometowns (or help them return), including more homes with office space, or more adaptable homes to prevent people with additional or changing needs from having to leave.
Protecting housing stock for the future
Secondly there’s increasing the housing stock and protecting it for use by local communities. Without control over future sales or allocations, what’s to say the homes won’t become holiday or second homes? Applying tools such as allocation policies and the Rural Housing Burden means that the houses will be forever in use by people with a need to live or work in the area.
Lifelong homes with a range of tenures
Thirdly, having options of different affordable tenures is crucial, particularly in small communities.
With secure tenancy options, community-led homes give individuals and families opportunities to plan for a long-term future. And by promoting community connections and prioritising tenants with existing ties to the community (e.g., a job, nearby family, connections to local services or businesses), this model also helps with stability and diversity of a community.
Not just homes…
As ever, it’s not just homes that are needed. That’s something that communities are demonstrating in practice too. In terms of how Staffin dealt with their population loss, the Communities Housing Trust worked with Staffin Community Trust to provide a range of affordable homes, but also to improve access to services with a new NHS health centre, and improve opportunities for local businesses with commercial units and workshops. All this was achieved on a small site with partnership working.
A short film about the feasibility stage of the Staffin project, part of a ‘routemap’ resource for community-led housing
In Closeburn, Dumfries and Galloway, the Nith Valley Leaf Trust partnered with SOSCH to identify need for local, affordable family homes. The project introduced new, Passivhaus family homes across from the school, which had previously suffered from a decreasing roll. Three new families moved into the homes, all with young children, which helped sustain the school and teaching jobs. One of the families also runs a day-care business from their home, further increasing local service provision for families.
Similarly, in Glentrool, a remote and rural community at the heart of Galloway Forest Park, SOSCH has supported Glentrool & Bargrennan Community Trust to redevelop three empty homes into affordable family housing. This project has been delivered in conjunction with the development of a community-hub, creating local employment opportunities in a very remote location.
Community-led is the way to repopulate
An important aspect of repopulation agendas is creating great places that are attractive to live, work, play, and grow up and grow old in. We want everyone – politicians, local councillors, services and businesses, community organisations and residents – to see that community-led housing and development does just that. It complements other existing options such as housebuilding through councils or housing associations.
As depopulation is a major issue felt keenly in communities across the country and one of the Scottish Government’s critical policy challenges, both CHT and SOSCH, alongside our community partners, demonstrate there’s a proven solution in community-led development.
In practice, this means enabling communities to make their own decisions and do what they do best: adapt, innovate, and create the best opportunities possible for their own futures.
It’s not a theory, or just a nice idea on paper, but proven in practice.
In the absence of other possibilities for many rural and island communities, and with funding support from the Scottish Government (such as the Rural & Islands Housing Fund), community-led provides strong outcomes and goes hand-in-hand with repopulation. We look forward to supporting many more communities thrive in as many ways as possible!
The new community-owned housing, health and business development in Staffin, Skye, has won the ‘Excellence in Regeneration and Sustainability’ category at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Scotland Housing Awards 2022.
The award ceremony was held last week in Glasgow, and this award recognises the importance of revitalising communities and neighbourhoods in order to make a real difference in people’s lives.
The development in Staffin was led by Staffin Community Trust, with support from the Communities Housing Trust. Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association were a further partner.
The project sought to help repopulate and regenerate the community which had suffered a 6.6% population drop in four years.
The resulting development includes six affordable homes with three different tenures, as well as a new community-owned NHS health centre, and business and workshop units, helping to improve access to rural services and boost the local economy.
Families moved into the six homes at Taighean a' Chaiseil (Houses of the Weir) earlier this year, which were designed and built by Skye-based firms Rural Design and James MacQueen Building Contractors Ltd.
Income from the properties and commercial space will allow Staffin Community Trust to maintain the development, and any surplus will be invested in further community projects.
The project received funding from the Scottish Land Fund, Rural & Islands Housing Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, SSE Sustainable Development, LEADER, Quaker Housing Trust, the Ecology Building Society and a crowdfunding campaign.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “Congratulations to everyone in the Staffin community for driving this forward – a great achievement! This project looks holistically at sustainability – not only housing the community for future generations, but also making sure there is access to services, and that local businesses have opportunities to grow or establish themselves. This is what a community-led approach can do, and we’re delighted that it’s been recognised by CIH at a national level and that it continues to be supported by the Scottish Government.”
More detail on this project and all shortlisted entries for the Scotland Housing Awards can be found in the Chartered Institute of Housing’s 2022 Good Practice Compendium.
The first guide in Scotland to support community organisations undertake their own housing or development projects is now freely available online.
The ‘Routemap’ resource was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Housing Shona Robison MSP at the Communities Housing Trust’s AGM in Inverness last month.
The Communities Housing Trust created the guide and film case studies in partnership with communities across Scotland, with funding support from the Nationwide Foundation.
CEO Ronnie MacRae said: “We want to increase understanding, raise confidence, and ultimately support more communities to undertake projects of their own. We’ve now worked with well over 100 communities facilitating community-led housing, so it’s based on sound and varied experience.”
Recognising that taking on a community-led housing project can feel overwhelming and complicated, particularly for communities with limited time and resources, it is intended to help demystify and map out the main stages of the process.
Two of the five video case studies, made by the communities themselves about a specific stage of the process:
Community-led housing is about local people playing a leading and fundamental role in solving their specific housing problems, creating long-term, affordable homes and strong, resilient communities in ways that are difficult to achieve through mainstream housing alone.
In Scotland, community-led housing is supported by the Scottish Government through the Rural and Islands Housing Fund which was set up in 2016 and enables community groups to access grants to part-fund community-led housing projects.
Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Shona Robison MSP said at the launch: “Every community is different and while some communities have experience of delivering housing solutions to meet their needs, there are others who don’t have that capacity to bring forward their own housing projects, so I really welcome the Community-Led Housing Routemap. I hope it will stimulate even more communities to bring forward many more new housing projects to help sustain and strengthen local areas.
“What we’ve seen on the video [case study] with Staffin really brings it to life – that’s the end product of all of that hard work over many years, of actually delivering homes for people, and that means people can stay living in their own communities. For me that’s what it’s all about.”
The Routemap guide and accompanying film case studies are available to view and download on the Communities Housing Trust’s website: www.chtrust.co.uk/routemap
We are looking for suitable land in the Stratherrick & Foyers area, to help provide community-led, affordable homes in partnership with Stratherrick & Foyers Community Trust.
Please share and get in touch if you know of any suitable sites: email@example.com
Download the call for sites poster here (PDF).
We're also currently running a housing survey for residents and businesses of the Stratherrick area - if you haven't completed it, please do so before Wednesday 12 October at: www.chtrust.co.uk/surveys.
The community-led development of 15 affordable homes, flats and self-build plots was granted full planning permission at the end of September.
The project above Kirkton Gardens was initiated by Lochcarron Community Development Company (LCDC) based on strong local need, and is being taken forward by Communities Housing Trust and The Highland Council.
The Communities Housing Trust will provide six homes for social rent and low cost home ownership, as well as three discounted self-build plots. The plots and homes for sale will be discounted using the Rural Housing Burden, which assures affordability in perpetuity for the local community.
The Highland Council will also provide six homes for social rent.
LCDC currently owns Kirkton Woodland, the land behind the development which was purchased with support from the Scottish Land Fund. Further funding has been provided by the Scottish Land Fund and The Highland Council to enable vehicular access to the site and the forest beyond making it more accessible to the community.
A building contractor will be appointed after the necessary consents are in place, and it is expected that construction work will begin on site in 2023.
“We are delighted to see the project going ahead,” said LCDC Chair Helen Murchison. “Demand for affordable housing in the Lochcarron area has been rising dramatically in recent years and this development will help provide a lasting solution for many young people and families, as well as help our local businesses create employment opportunities.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “Congratulations to the Lochcarron community for reaching the next milestone in this much-needed project. This development will provide homes for 15 families, helping keep people within the area and helping the local economy and wider community to thrive. The strong local support is worth mentioning, as it demonstrates the will of communities to take their future into their own hands which is commendable.”
Economy and Infrastructure Committee Chair of The Highland Council, Cllr Ken Gowans said: “Affordable, sustainable and energy efficient housing is a priority for The Highland Council as it enables people to stay within rural communities, allowing them to prosper and grow and in turn support wider economic growth. The Council commend the efforts of the Lochcarron Community Trust and look forward to working in partnership with them and the Communities Housing Trust to deliver 15 new affordable homes.”
Two areas of land at Ardochy have been purchased by Glengarry Community Woodlands and the Communities Housing Trust for six new woodland crofts, and four to six new affordable homes, to help repopulate the glen.
Both land purchases totalling 66 hectares (163 acres) of Ardochy Forest were funded in part by the Scottish Land Fund, via Forestry and Land Scotland’s Community Asset Transfer scheme. The Scottish Land Fund (SLF) is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by the National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The community-led project comprising Glengarry Community Woodlands, the Woodland Crofts Partnership, and the Communities Housing Trust will help improve the long-term sustainability of Glengarry. This issue is reflected across many rural Highland communities where access to affordable housing and jobs can be extremely limited.
Development of the croft and housing project followed a consultation process with the community who gave their input on the future of the land. Access to both housing and land were highlighted as important issues throughout the responses.
Glengarry Community Woodlands will now work with the Woodland Crofts Partnership to establish four new woodland crofts over 47 hectares (116 acres) of the forest.
In addition, the Communities Housing Trust will provide two new woodland crofts and four to six affordable homes over 19 hectares (47 acres), which will be a mix of tenures based on the needs of the local community: rental properties, homes for discounted sale, and croft housing. Any homes for sale will have discounts protected in perpetuity by the Rural Housing Burden, which also prioritises local communities in allocations, allowing control over future sales.
The crofts will similarly be protected to ensure their benefits are retained within the community upon any future change of occupation.'
The Chair of Glengarry Community Woodlands, Ross Lynn, said: “Glengarry Community Woodlands is delighted to be taking ownership of this land on behalf of the community, thanks to support from the Scottish Land Fund. We are looking forward to working in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust, and the Woodland Crofts Partnership to deliver the community’s plans for woodland crofts and affordable housing on the land, proposals that proved popular in our consultation meeting.
“This is a pivotal moment for Glengarry as this project will provide young people and families with much-needed opportunities to remain in the area and to generate income through the sustainable management of this local woodland.”
The community will work alongside the project partners to set the allocation criteria for the homes and crofts, with a focus on both addressing local needs alongside encouraging repopulation of the glen.
The new crofts will bring the total number of woodland crofts applied for or registered by community groups to 30, a significant proportion of all new crofts created in recent years.
Woodland crofts are crofts with sufficient tree cover overall to be considered woodland. Like any croft, they confer a mixture of rights and responsibilities on crofters, but based on management of the forest. The model can support both lifestyles and livelihoods, and has particular potential to deliver low-carbon living.
Main contractor for the Woodland Croft Partnership, Jamie McIntyre, said: “We’re delighted to see the land transfers needed to make this project a reality finally go through – it has been a long journey to get to this point. The approach pioneered here by GCW of working in partnership to deliver badly needed crofts is one which is transferable to other communities, and one which we hope will be taken up more widely. We’d also like to thank the Scottish Government for funding support in the development of this project”.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust, said: “This is a fantastic example of holistic rural development targeting regeneration and repopulation that will also benefit both the economy and the environment. It demonstrates positive land use and stewardship, and we’re delighted to be working with Glengarry Community Woodlands and the Woodland Crofts Partnership to take the project forward. A combination of genuinely affordable homes and woodland crofts, spearheaded by the local community, is a great model that other rural communities will be able to look to.”
The project’s next steps are to develop a forest design plan and masterplan for the land and to develop replicable legal templates for tenanted and owner-occupied croft models.
Forestry & Land Scotland Chief Executive, Simon Hodgson, said: “As part of Scottish Government, our Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) is giving Scotland’s communities more opportunities to develop land-based projects that will deliver benefits such as job creation, skills development, income generation and improved amenity.
“With this latest completion, we look forward to seeing the development of crofts and affordable housing that will do much to revitalise and strengthen the local community.
“It’s another great example of how CATS helps communities make the best use of the national forests and land.”
Sandra Holmes, HIE’s head of community assets, said: “This innovative, community-led project is a great example of place-based development. The mix of tenures and new crofts will provide a range of opportunities to best meet local needs today and in the future. We particularly welcome the measures to keep these opportunities affordable in perpetuity. Our congratulations to Glengarry Community Woodlands and Communities Housing Trust in securing the land to enable this important development to progress.”
This blog is part of a monthly series about community-led housing in Scotland, jointly written by Mike Staples, Chief Executive at South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), and Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive at Communities Housing Trust (CHT). Between us we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across Scotland, facilitating well over 1,000 affordable homes.
In 2012, seven apprentices were taken on to help build six affordable homes in the Cairngorms National Park, as part of a skills training programme to boost crucial rural trades.
Ten years later, three are still with the same local contractor, AW Laing. The rest have been taken on by other contractors in the area.
The ten homes at Ardgeal near Kincraig were an exemplar community-led development by the Communities Housing Trust, using a former Forestry & Land Scotland site where all timber felled and material excavated was used on site. The homes have minimal impact on the environment and are efficient to run. But beyond this, they provided needed job opportunities for young people and boost rural construction trades.
The apprentice programme was one of many ways the project looked at long-term sustainability. All felled timber was milled on site and some was provided for an outdoor classroom at the local primary school, whose numbers were increased with new families moving to the ten homes.
In the remote community of Glentrool, on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park, Glentrool & Bargrennan Community Trust appointed Broatch Construction to redevelop three homes into affordable, family housing. The work was completed in March 2022, helped along by a team which included four apprentices.
A trainee electrician, a plumber, and two joiners worked on the redevelopment project, all recruited from the local surrounding area. The apprentices used advanced, climate- friendly approaches, including implement new solar-powered heating systems, to create beautiful and high-quality homes for incoming families. The project also allowed for practical ‘green-build’ experience for young professionals along the way.
South of Scotland Community Housing is also partnering with South of Scotland Enterprise and community organisations, including Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group, to develop a programme of skills- building for low-energy retrofits. These schemes will be jointly delivered with funders and communities to support an inclusive transition to net-zero in the construction and housing sectors.
‘Just’ building a house can be so much more – and we need to provide thousands more affordable homes in Scotland. The associated benefits from a community-led approach are significant.
Establishing skills development programmes to help deliver community-led housing is an effective way to:
Opportunities for rural and regional growth
Rural trades are in crisis. Construction prices rose more than 27% from May 2021 to May 2022; travel costs are through the roof; and labour is exceedingly hard to come by, especially in rural areas. Numbers of construction employees in Scotland fell by 9.2% in 2020 compared to 2019, whereas numbers increased in England and Wales. Construction projects overall are costing 10-15% more compared to 1-2 years ago. These create real knock-on impacts when a community is paying.
Since many construction firms and tradespeople are concentrated in the central belt, there is a growing need for regional skills.
With the push towards community-wealth building, there is a huge opportunity for regional supply chains as an investment priority for the development sector. By keeping contracts local, community housing projects have the potential to create new jobs and training opportunities. It also ensures wages stay local and are reinvested in nearby people, businesses and services.
This includes ongoing and long-term opportunities for repairs and maintenance, to establish or grow local companies which are more accessible and less expensive than companies who have to travel long-distance. This is a key aspect of viability and affordability of homes in rural areas.
Community-led housing simultaneously provides job opportunities in rural areas and tackles the skills shortage for the long-term, further supporting rural communities down the line. Secure jobs and housing mutually reinforce each other and are important parts of creating great places.
No Planet B
As for planetary considerations, there’s also the drive to repurpose empty buildings across Scotland. In Glendale, Skye, the renovation of the disused school will provide opportunities for students to do hands-on coursework units in retrofitting and recycling building materials, as well as CPD for those in related fields. This Glendale Trust and Communities Housing Trust project is working in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland, Built Environment Smarter Transformation, and Climavore, to name just a few.
We can’t have ‘sustainable developments’ with exciting new ‘green’ materials that have to be shipped internationally and installed by experts from afar. So, looking holistically at climate conscious aspects common to community-led projects, local contractors and companies help do the following:
 See UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy monthly statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/building-materials-and-components-statistics-june-2022
 ONS Construction Statistics GB 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/constructionindustry/articles/constructionstatistics/latest
 Communities Housing Trust projects at September 2022; own calculations.
Initial plans for the renovation of the disused Borrodale School in Glendale will be on show for community feedback on Thursday 25 August.
The drop-in event at the former school from 3pm-7pm invites local residents to give input on early plans and designs for the building’s conversion to 5-6 affordable homes, which would be protected for use by local communities.
The school building is in community ownership, having been purchased by the Glendale Trust with support from the Scottish Land Fund in 2014. Skye-based contractors will begin works shortly to make the building wind- and water-tight and to stop further decay, with funding from Historic Environment Scotland, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Rural Communities into Action Fund, Crown Estate Scotland and Foundation Scotland.
In partnership with the Glendale Trust, the Communities Housing Trust is leading the project to renovate and convert the derelict buildings, with a focus on retrofitting and recycling building materials to minimise waste, and support and encourage rural trades. The project partners include University of the Highlands & Islands, Zero Waste Scotland, HIE, Climavore and Built Environment, Smarter Transformation.
Plockton-based architect Olli Blair has drawn up initial plans for the homes, which would offer a mix of affordable tenancies allowing choice for people locally, such as social rent equivalent, mid-market rent, low-cost home ownership, or housing for keyworkers. Homes would be allocated by the Communities Housing Trust, prioritising people with a need to live or work in the area, and perpetually protecting the homes against use as holiday- and second-homes.
Ronnie MacRae, chief executive of the Communities Housing Trust, said: “This is a community-led project, with local people taking a leading role in developing the community with a long-term view, and we would urge people nearby to come and share their views on the plans. We hope that the Borrodale project will act as a blueprint for community renovations to address repopulation, skills development in rural areas, reuse and recycling of materials, environmental concerns, and economic growth and opportunities.”
There are over 43,000 long-term empty homes across Scotland, and an urgent need for affordable housing. The renovation will focus on transforming an eyesore into an asset, providing housing for the local community as well as supporting economic growth of the region.
Clare Gray, Chair of The Glendale Trust said: “We are very pleased with the plans and the architect’s vision to repurpose the buildings while keeping much of their original external appearance. It will be good to see work starting soon on the gable wall of the school house, as a key project milestone.”
Drop in to the community consultation event at Borrodale School, Glendale (IV55 8WL) on Thursday 25 August, from 3pm-7pm. On hand to answer questions and discuss comments will be the Glendale Trust, the Communities Housing Trust, and architect Olli Blair.
Feel free to download and share the event poster below:
CHT is happy to welcome two new team members, Nicola Doctor (left) and Katy Martin (right).
Nicola joined us in June as the new Communities Officer, and has previously worked for CHT as a Skills & Development Project Manager. She has twenty years' experience with the local authority, and has worked to organise and promote community participation in local and rural development issues.
I am very happy to rejoin CHT as housing and skills are absolutely critical factors for the future vitality of rural areas. The provision of affordable lower cost housing is almost certainly key to retaining people to work and live in rural areas. I am passionate about supporting communities to grow and flourish, and encouraging employability through training and skills initiatives targeted at young people, which all helps the sustainability of future generations.
Katy joined us in July as the new Admin Assistant, and is returning to work after having her daughter.
I stay in Inverness with my husband, Alasdair, daughter, Connie age 1, our cocker spaniel called Ralph and cat called Milo. I am really happy to get back into work after having my daughter in December 2020 during the pandemic and am really looking forward to working with you all and working somewhere that makes a difference to other people's lives.
Inverness Town House, High Street, Inverness IV1 1JJ (click here for map)
Friday 23 September
10.30am - 2pm including lunch
We are looking forward to welcoming you all in person to our 24th AGM at the Town House, Inverness, on Friday 23 September.
The event has been kindly sponsored by Triodos Bank, a great ally in rural community-led housing.
See the speaker programme and feel free to register below. The event is open to all, particularly community organisations and development trusts who are interested in community ownership and/or community-led development, to lay out the current and future context in Scotland, and to support practical next steps.
We will be launching our new multimedia resource, RouteMap to Community Led Housing, which will be freely available to communities. The RouteMap has been kindly funded by the Nationwide Foundation.
Communities across Scotland may be looking to buy land or assets for community-led development, to work towards sound, long-term repopulation – while facing increasing challenges.
Community ownership can be a huge benefit, though there is often a stumbling block for ‘what happens next’ as communities may lack the capacity for how to usefully transform their new assets.
Community-led development can be the most effective approach towards sustainable repopulation, but it can seem a huge undertaking with many trials and tribulations along the way.
The event will focus on how communities get started or progress their plans and ideas for community-led development, what you need to know, and will facilitate peer-to-peer learning where possible.
10.00am Doors open
10.30am Keynote speakers:
Shona Robison MSP - Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing & Local Governance
Calum Macleod - Community Land Scotland
Megan MacInnes - Applecross Community Company
Hugh Ross - Staffin Community Trust
11.30am Coffee break
11.50am Launch of RouteMap to Community Led Housing: short films and Q&A/panel discussion with the speakers above plus Alan Miller of Triodos Bank
1.30pm AGM business – open to all, but only CHT members may vote. Membership is free and open to development trusts and community organisations supportive of our work in community-led housing; join as a member here.
2pm Formal end; attendees may stay to network
As the event includes lunch, please let us know any dietary requirements below.
Please note: The AGM is now fully booked, but we expect a few people to be unable to make it. We are therefore operating a waiting list; add your name below to be notified if a place becomes available.
The Scottish Self Build Loan Fund has committed more than £6 million in loans to self-builders across Scotland to date.
The fund was established in 2018 by the Scottish Government to support self-builders who are unable to obtain mainstream self-build mortgage finance, for example people in rural areas, or older people looking to downsize.
The original £4 million Fund was given an additional boost of £2 million in March 2021, to help meet demand.
£6 million has now been committed to 40 families and individuals in 13 Local Authority areas, to provide homes which wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. The loans are repaid when the homes have been completed by acquiring a standard residential mortgage, or the sale of the existing home.
The 40th loan was offered to schoolteacher Kirsten Hay in Shetland, who had struggled to progress their self-build project for 20 years:
We originally had an old croft house on the site that we intended to renovate 20 years ago. My partner was going to do most of the work himself but unfortunately due to a car accident not long after, was left disabled and wheelchair bound.
The Loan Fund is administered on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Communities Housing Trust, an Inverness-based charity working closely with communities to provide affordable homes and much-needed amenities.
Loans which have already been repaid are being ‘recycled’ to finance additional builds, allowing even more people to build their own homes.
Homes are now complete or under construction in 13 Local Authority areas: Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Falkirk, Highland, South Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth & Kinross, Scottish Borders, Shetland, Stirling, and the Western Isles.
The Fund remains open to applications until 31 August 2022, with loans to be repaid by August 2023.
For more information about the Self Build Loan Fund, and to apply, please visit: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.
This blog features a variety of CHT’s developments and projects located throughout the central and northern Scotland. It also includes the latest news and updates regarding the Trust.