We are very pleased to welcome Fraser Maclennan to the Development team in a new post, as a recent graduate from Edinburgh Napier University with a BSc in Construction and Project Management. We are keen to help train early-career graduates and Fraser will be a great addition to the team.
Originally from Inverness, he left home in 2017 to move to Edinburgh, seeking new opportunities to learn about a subject of interest to him. After studying for four fun years in Edinburgh, he decided to return home to Inverness.
In his spare time, he enjoys being active and playing many sports, including football, rugby, and even the occasional game of golf. He also enjoys travelling and going to festivals - something which has been missed dearly over the last year!
I am thrilled to be joining CHT and am very excited to apply the skills and experience I have gained to date whilst facing new challenges at CHT.
Do you want to live in a rural village in East Sutherland? The residents of Edderton in the Scottish Highlands are looking for families, couples and individuals to help reinvigorate their village which has experienced some population decline over the last few decades.
Within a short stroll from the renowned Dornoch Firth, good travel links through the nearby A9, a primary school and the home of Balblair Distillery, there are plenty of opportunities for new businesses and services to spring up. Edderton is also close to the town of Tain with its secondary school, railway station and other amenities.
Ewen Simpson, local resident and farmer: “We need young families, not just in Edderton, but across the Highlands… In Edderton in the 1970s, we had a post office, a shop, we even had petrol pumps outside the shop at one point, and the pub, all of which is gone now, which does take the heart out of a community. That will all change again, we’ll get there again.”
Local partnership Caledonia Forestry Ltd. has helped to facilitate and enable the project by gifting the land for community development.
The Communities Housing Trust (CHT), who work closely with communities across central and northern Scotland to provide affordable housing and other amenities, are currently conducting two Housing Needs Surveys with the support of Edderton Community Council. One survey is focused on current residents and people who live nearby, and one is for people who currently live out with the area who would like to move in.
The development will include 5-7 affordable homes of mixed tenures, including discounted self-build plots, and the surveys will help dictate what homes and tenures are required.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust: “With land available to build affordable homes, we now need to know who would like to live here and become a part of helping this village thrive again. It’s a rare and forward-thinking opportunity to repopulate a rural area, especially with increasing options for homeworking, new business start-ups and economic diversification.”
While the community are supportive of newcomers to Edderton to help make the village thrive again, the development will also cater for any existing local need from in and around the area.
Michael Brown, local resident and chair of the Edderton Community Council: “Young families and jobs are the life blood of a community. Like so many Highland villages, the Primary School has a falling role, and the local church is on the verge of closure. The Communities Housing Trust has thrown us a lifeline to our future. We have already worked with them on a recent housing project which is almost complete with the tenancy allocation awarded to two young families. We would like to welcome new people to our village, so this is great news for us, and we are so grateful to the CHT.”
If you’d like to be part of helping Edderton thrive into the future and could genuinely see yourself living in this rural village, or already live in the vicinity, please complete the Housing Needs Survey here: www.chtrust.co.uk/surveys. The survey closes on 13 June.
Planning permission has been granted for an initial phase of nine affordable homes on Colonsay, with more to follow, prioritising the need for long-term residential homes on the island.
The Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) is working in partnership with the Communities Housing Trust (CHT) to provide a much-needed and community-led mixed development of affordable housing and business units. The business units received planning permission earlier this year.
There are currently only nine social housing units and only a handful of private rentals on the island. More than 40% of the housing stock on Colonsay is used as a holiday home or for self-catering holiday accommodation. Homes regularly sell - often unadvertised - for well-above the local and national average meaning that young people and families on low and middle incomes are priced out of the market. There is no shortage of people who would like to remain on Colonsay or move in. CCDC has already received more than 20 expressions of interest in this development.
In 2020, with CHT's support, 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 local workers. Further funding has been obtained through Inspiring Scotland, the £2m Islands Green Recovery Programme (Prògram Ath-Shlànachaidh Uaine nan Eilean), and the CCDC’s own very successful Crowdfunding campaign.
This initial phase of nine affordable homes at Scalasaig will be of mixed tenure, based on local need: affordable rent, low-cost home ownership, local worker and discounted self-build plots. A short distance away, two commercial business units will be built, as possible workshop and studio space.
Caitlin McNeill, Director, CCDC: "The future of our community rests upon affordable, accessible housing. Housing is the foundation of a person's security and a fundamental human right and, unfortunately, we know all too well the consequences when housing needs are not met.
“With the approval of the master plan, CCDC, together with the community and those to whom it matters most, will be able to continue to address the housing crisis on the island. We are extremely grateful to those who have supported and enabled us to reach this point."
John Forbes, Community-Led Housing Co-ordinator, Communities Housing Trust: “We are extremely pleased to be working with CCDC to support longer-term, working residents on Colonsay. Their 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.”
We are extremely delighted that our work with the communities of Gairloch is a finalist in the Best Regeneration Project category of the UK-wide Inside Housing Development Awards 2021.
Judging was apparently very tough this year, with a record 300 entries in total. Winners will be announced in November.
The Achtercairn development in Gairloch was a large-scale collaborative project with funding from the Scottish Government's Rural & Islands Housing Fund which provided 25 affordable homes (19 social rent and 6 low-cost home ownership, including Rent To Buy), managed by three housing providers; a tourist information hub with Gairloch and Lochewe Action Forum, Scotland's first public building to be awarded 'Passivhaus' status; a new shop and cafe which sells produce from over 40 local producers; a new classroom for the University of the Highlands & Islands; and a new training facility for the Air Training Corps.
Project partners included Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE), the Farm & Garden Store, Gairloch Museum, Colin Armstrong Architects, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Albyn Housing Society, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the Highland Council, VisitScotland, Air Training Corps, and Macleod & Mitchell Contractors, not to mention lots of local residents and interest groups.
Read more about the project and impacts on the village: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/gairloch.html
As the community-led mixed development in Tomintoul progresses, we thought it would be good to share a quick update with you all.
Watch the short video above for an overview, and update on site progress. It's great to see the project coming along, particularly in a National Park and the extra challenges this brings.
Tomintoul is a village in Moray, within the Cairngorms National Park. Attractive with tourists, it has a high prevalence of second homes, and lack of available long-term housing.
We worked with the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust to undertake community consultation on housing need, which clearly showed that there was a demand for good quality affordable housing within the community.
It was also clear from responses that the lack of housing was a barrier to families remaining, and new families moving in, which was having a negative effect on local businesses, community groups, and the school rolls.
The former secondary school building, derelict for over 20 years and an eyesore in the village, was identified as a potential site for development. We supported TGDT to acquire the site, which was passed into community ownership in November 2020, with funding from the Scottish Land Fund.
With support from Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), the school building was demolished in early 2021, and construction will begin in spring.
We continue to provide development support for the construction of 12 affordable homes, including several live/work units. The homes, of differing sizes, are designed around a shared social space, to address social isolation and build community spirit.
With TGDT, we continue to monitor the range of tenures required, which could include low-cost home ownership, and a range of affordable rents. With the live/work units too, this flexibility will help cater for a range of needs and help ensure long-term sustainability.
It is hoped that the development will help increase the school roll, and ensure the longevity of the village well into the future.
Read about more community-led projects we're working on here.
To discuss what your own community requires, feel free to contact us for an informal chat.
Construction began last week on two new community-led affordable houses to rent in Cannich. The project has been driven by Strathglass & Affric Community Company, who were keen to see an empty building put to better use, for the good of the local community.
NHS Highland, who owned the nurses’s house, transferred it to the Community Company under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. The land transfer was completed in February 2021 with funding from the Scottish Land Fund.
The new houses will meet a need for high-quality, affordable accommodation within the local area. The project is being led by Strathglass & Affric Company Company, with project management and development support from the Communities Housing Trust, and funding from the Scottish Government’s Rural & Island Housing Fund, Quaker Housing Trust, Highland Council, SSE Developing Communities Fund, Soirbheas, and the Strathglass Community Fund. The houses will continue to be offered at affordable rents for future generations, and will employ local contractors MC Builders during the build process.
The doctor’s surgery, which was previously housed in the extension to the nurse’s house, moved into fit-for-purpose premises within the renovated Community Hall six years ago. The Hall is owned and managed by Strathglass & Affric Community Company and is a hub for Cannich residents and visitors alike.
Alan Hood, Chair, Strathglass & Affric Community Company, who has worked tirelessly to develop the project: “The new 2 and 3 bedroomed homes will be owned by the Strathglass and Affric Community Company on behalf of the people of Strathglass and the houses will be offered at affordable rent for many generations to come helping people to stay in and contribute to our fantastic Community. We hope we will be able to retain families in the area, which will also help keep the school going. It’s been a real joint effort with so many organisations and funders pitching in, it’s been great and we look forward to seeing how the build progresses!”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust: “Small community-led developments such as this one can be absolutely crucial to sustaining rural communities – sometimes it’s the only option. A few houses combined with work opportunities and services can help keep a community alive, with wider social and economic benefits brought to the area. We’d like to congratulate Strathglass & Affric Community Community and are extremely glad to be supporting them in building these new affordable homes.”
Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s Director of Public Health: “Affordable good quality housing is a vital asset for all communities, and it is a significant factor in improvement in health and wellbeing. We are delighted about the work undertaken to transfer the ownership of the property.”
Completion is anticipated in Autumn 2021. Expressions of interest in the homes can be made with the Communities Housing Trust: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/future-opportunities.html
The Self-Build Loan Fund provided by the Scottish Government and administered by the Communities Housing Trust has been extended for another year, and will now accept applications until August 2022.
As banks became more cautious, it became more challenging for people to find funds to build their own home. The Self-Build Loan Fund of £4 million was established in 2018 to support those unable to obtain mainstream self-build mortgage finance.
Scottish Ministers have extended the Fund for a further year, recognising the national slowdown brought about by the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, as well as ongoing need and increasing demand. The new application deadline is 31 August 2022, with loans to be repaid by August 2023.
Neil Walker, Self-Build Loan Fund Officer, Communities Housing Trust: “We saw public interest in the scheme rise by 153% over 2020. We are ‘recycling’ repaid loans to finance additional builds, and are delighted that the 35 families and individuals we are already supporting will increase significantly by the time the Fund closes.”
Homes are now complete or under construction in 10 Local Authority areas: Aberdeen-shire, Argyll & Bute, Highland, Perth & Kinross, Lanarkshire, Western Isles, Orkney, Ayrshire, Falkirk and Stirling.
The Loan Fund is expected to provide almost 50 new homes at a value of almost £16 million to the Scottish economy. It will support approximately 350 jobs in the construction industries - often small companies in remote, rural areas - something which is of great benefit in uncertain times.
Gary and Susan, Self-Build Loan Fund recipients on Mull: "The Self-Build Loan Fund provided vital bridging finance. Having the loan also meant that we could pursue the build quickly, within the limited construction window available due to the weather. Importantly for us, it meant we could talk confidently to local builders and contractors, with us and them secure in the knowledge that we could pay them, and that they would be paid on time.
"As with other islands and marginal communities, building on Mull carries a cost overhead for the supply and delivery of building materials. The SBLF provides vital access to finance and knowledge, making the personal dream of home ownership available to local families, adding to the longer-term resident housing stock, and underpinning sustainable island communities.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust: “This is really important for small, rural or remote communities across Scotland. 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. We’d like to thank the Scottish Government and are extremely pleased to see this Fund extended, so we can continue to support families, elderly people, crofters and couples to build their own homes across Scotland, and help strengthen their communities.”
For more information about the Self-Build Loan Fund, and to apply, please visit: https://www.chtrust.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html.
The Assynt Development Trust has bought 55 acres of former glebe land from the Church of Scotland, with support from the Scottish Land Fund.
The purchase, which was finalised at the end of March, marks the next step of a 15-year community-led search to find suitable land for building much-needed affordable homes for the local community, as well as other facilities.
With the land now in community ownership, the Assynt Development Trust is hoping the site will deliver multiple benefits to the community, and plan to hold further consultations in the local area once Covid restrictions are eased.
The site, situated on the road towards Glencanisp Lodge, was identified after a thorough process of surveys, housing need evaluations, and careful thought and planning.
Initial ideas for the site are being explored, to potentially include affordable homes, an all-abilities path network, commercial work units, and education and training facilities. The Communities Housing Trust supported the community with the land acquisition, and will continue to help facilitate the development process.
Willie Jack, Chair of Assynt Development Trust: “We are really pleased that the land purchase has now gone through, and we can now begin to address some of the issues facing our community, such as the need for affordable homes for Assynt residents. We are very keen that people have a chance to pitch their ideas in, for what they need and want in Lochinver. As everything is still at an early stage, and with the site secured, we can work on developing the site into what local people want for it, now and into the future.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust: “This is an exciting opportunity to provide not just affordable housing, but wider social and economic community benefits too. This community-led, mixed development model is often so much more suited to smaller, more rural communities and we are extremely pleased to continue working with the Trust and the wider community to further develop the site. We’d like to thank the Scottish Land Trust and congratulate the community on the buyout, and recognise all the hard work that’s been put in to get to this stage. Well done!”
CHT is happy to welcome two new members of staff, Sarah Hobbs and Rob Humphrey.
Sarah joined in December 2020 as Marketing and Communications Assistant, supporting CHT and the communities we work with to share their experiences, and the ongoing need for and impact of our work.
She has a background in practical social justice, and working with underserved and underrepresented groups to address systemic social inequality. For the past five years she has worked in marketing roles for small charities and social enterprises, and enjoys finding ways to tell stories, also running a guided Storywalk business. She has previously run educational expeditions, worked in the arts, and been a reindeer herder, which is what brought her to the Highlands.
At CHT, you realise very quickly that it's about more than 'just' housing. It's shining a light onto mainstream housing market and planning issues that aren't working for rural communities, which CHT addresses at a practical level by working directly with communities, and also a policy level.
Rob joined CHT in March as a Construction Development Officer, working in the Development team to take communities' plans through the development and build stages.
He has worked in the construction industry in the north of Scotland since 2014, gaining an HND in Construction Management and qualifying as a Certified PassiveHouse Tradesperson. With Carbon Dynamic and later Makar Natural Construction, he worked on various projects across rural and island communities, all involving ecologically and environmentally driven off-site construction methods. He also has insight and experience in rural agricultural communities through helping to run a croft in Sutherland, which has provided real-life lessons on crofting’s vast cultural and historical importance.
I am delighted to join the Communities Housing Trust! It's great to join an organisation which is making a huge difference in remote areas, and brilliant to work in a construction-sector linked environment that isn’t so male dominated.
CHT is working in partnership with the Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) to provide a much-needed and community-led mixed development of affordable housing and business units.
The island is remote, with a small population of 130 people and a worrying lack of young people. This is due in part to a lack of affordable housing, as more than 40% of the island's houses are holiday/second homes, resulting in houses rarely becoming available for sale and often priced above the means of the local people when they do. This year, the primary school roll will drop from eight to four children. This is an island at breaking point, and desperately wanting to sustain a thriving community.
In 2020, with CHT's support, CCDC purchased two plots of land with funds from the Scottish Land Fund, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Argyll and Bute Council and MOWI.
The community-led project has now received a grant of £96,000 from Inspiring Scotland "to develop housing and support the electricity supply." It is one of 12 initial projects selected to benefit from the £2m Islands Green Recovery Programme (Prògram Ath-Shlànachaidh Uaine nan Eilean) under the 'Communities' strand, supporting projects that contribute to green recovery, reduce carbon emissions as well as improve the resilience, health and wellbeing for Island communities.
The initial phase of 12 affordable homes at Scalasaig will be of mixed tenure: affordable rent, low-cost home ownership, local worker and discounted self build plots. A short distance away, two commercial business units will be built, as possible workshop and studio space.
CCDC and the community of Colonsay are currently Crowdfunding £25,000 to help develop these affordable homes. Watch their wee video here, and donate any spare pennies you may have! They will be very gratefully received.
The Scottish Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance on moving home (31 March 2020), urged people to delay moving to a new home whilst stay-at-home measures were in place, and at the moment, these restrictions still remain in force. However, despite the restrictions for house moves being in place, the Scottish Government recognised that there were situations were housing providers would have to offer, and allow people to move, homes – this being where people were at risk of being homeless and had no other option but to move out of their current accommodation.
CHT are pleased that we have been able to successfully move three households that fell into this category, into their new homes last month. We were able to offer two homes for rent and one for sale. Of course, our main priority in facilitating these moves was to ensure that these new householders were able to move in a safe environment which complied with all social distancing and hygiene regulations. We ensured that all the relevant information was provided to the householders, our contractors and the staff who were involved in the house moves, to minimise the risk to all involved.
CHT await the announcement that Phase 2 of the Scottish Government route map will be implemented which will allow for the further lifting of some restrictions. This includes certain activities in connection with the sale or letting of properties. If some of these restrictions are lifted, we anticipate enabling new tenancies and sales across all of our stock. We review the latest advice from The Scottish Government daily and will provide further guidance as and when changes are announced.
The country may be on lockdown, but the HSCHT team are still pushing on with developing our projects so we can hit the ground running when life returns to normal!
One example of a project which is nearly ready to go is the redevelopment of the old Tomintoul secondary school which the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust would like to transform from a derelict eyesore in the centre of a community reliant on tourist trade, in to an attractive but also much-needed affordable housing development.
TGDT identified need for housing through community events and when site became available they engaged HSCHT as a specialist in supporting rural communities to develop affordable housing.
HSCHT (with TGDT) undertook:
Tenders will be received by late spring and all going well we could see site works commence later in the year with completion in summer 2021.
Aidan Suttie joined the team in March 2019 to begin his Workplace Diploma in Digital Application Support after leaving sixth year at Culloden Academy. Aidan, who is still only 18, has become a valued member of the team. he said:
“Russell has helped guide me through the Apprenticeship and thanks to QA they have allowed me to gain a qualification and a job at the end of it. I am delighted to be a part of the team at HSCHT, they have made me feel welcome and have helped to educate me further in my progression. I would like to thank HSCHT, QA, and Russell for helping me gain a Diploma in Digital Applications Support”.
Aidan was awarded his certificate by Russell McKay, Senior Technical Skills Coach with QA, who has mentored Aidan throughout his apprenticeship. Russell said:
“It has been a great pleasure to coach this young, inspirational Apprentice, and to be part of Aidan’s journey through to achievement in Digital Application Support within a great company, HSCHT”.
Aidan has been a great support to the team and will stay on in a permanent role providing IT and Digital Support. CEO, Ronnie MacRae congratulated Aidan after his presentation:
“We’re delighted to have Aidan as part of our team and for HSCHT to support the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, keeping young talent in our area and helping the Highland economy.”
The scheme, which is part- funded by Skills Development Scotland, allows young people to earn a wage whilst gaining a range of industry-recognised qualifications. More information about the initiative can be found on the SDS website here: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/apprenticeships/modern-apprenticeships/
By Kirsty Crichton
Finding a suitable plot of affordable land is often the biggest hurdle for anyone looking to build their own home, but a group of local residents near Aviemore recently found a way to overcome this problem, providing an excellent example of what can be achieved with collaboration between the community and local landowner, without the need for public funding.
The Badenoch and Strathspey area was recently named as having the highest house prices in the Highlands, with available plots of land becoming very difficult to obtain, particularly those with an affordable price tag. A group of local residents decided to approach local landowners, The Rothiemurchus Estate, who agreed to work with them through the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, who would ensure protection of the discount on the land through attaching a Rural Housing Burden , to provide them with discounted plots on which to build their own homes.
The Old Sawmill Site at Inverdruie offered the perfect woodland setting for local affordable housing. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, in conjunction with The Rothiemurchas Estate, has delivered fully serviced house sites to local people. Each plot was provided with electrical, water, phone & drainage connections, along with sewage treatment plants and completed on site foul drainage, ready for each plot purchaser to start building. The road to the site was also improved by increasing the number of passing places. The group, who are locally known as the “Sawmill Co-operative” sought planning consent for the plots and met all associated costs.
Rural Scotland has seen a shift in working lifestyles in recent years, with improved connectivity offering greater opportunities to work from home. This was the focus for some of the residents on this site, where live/work solutions are being incorporated in to the design of the homes, with the aim of improving the working environment for the modern family and making the community more sustainable.
This project perfectly exemplifies the positive outcomes that communities and landowners can achieve by working together to enable affordable housing, particularly when house prices rise to a level that is unachievable for many local people in rural communities. Four families, who were unable to buy a plot on the open market were able to buy in their locality whilst the site also provided two open-market sites for the Rothiemurchas Estate, offering a win-win solution for both the community and landowner. Work has already started on the plots, with the first of the four families set to move in March 2020.
This type of project would not have been achievable without the support of the Rothiemurchus Estate, the continued drive of the local residents involved in the project and the collaborative effort between the two parties. This approach is commended further by the fact that it requires no public subsidy, making it more achievable for similar communities to replicate.
It is hoped that a similar collaboration between Aviemore Community Company and the Rothiemurchus Estate can be delivered at An Camas Mòr – an exciting project which is being proposed near Aviemore and is set to deliver over 1500 homes, giving people who work locally a fair opportunity to buy, rent or build a home that they can afford. The plan is to create an economically sustainable community by meeting the needs of a diverse range of people. The community development masterplan outlines a focus on social inclusion, by providing live/work opportunities so that vulnerable groups can be cared for in the community and people can restructure their working lives. This forward-thinking development has also been designed in response to the climate challenges that we are facing, and An Camas Mòr is designed to use energy carefully to ease the cost of living both financially and environmentally.
The “Sawmill Co-operative” as they are known, will shortly purchase four of the six plots at a discounted price from the Rothiemurchus Estate, enabling the remaining two to be sold privately by the Estate. Thanks to the Estate for embracing the initial proposal from the self-build group, four local families will soon begin building their own homes on a brownfield site in the Cairngorms with no public subsidy.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) facilitated the negotiations with the Estate and has acted as a vehicle to secure affordable housing by providing discounted plots protected with a Rural Housing Burden. Thanks to the new fund, the Dr & Mrs Steven Faulds Memorial Fund, HSCHT purchased the land and arranged for the servicing of the plots prior to the onward sales to the families.
Although this project has not been without its difficulties and it has taken time to get to where it is now, the determination and motivation of the co-operative must be commended. The eager and ambitious group have set an example that will hopefully inspire people and future projects for years to come.
With planning consent now granted, the Sawmill Co-operative are in the process of securing their self-build mortgages and will be building their new homes shortly. We expect that other projects could benefit from this collaborative approach and are grateful to the Rothiemurchus Estate for leading the way.
On the 21st of June 2018, residents of a small island on the West Coast of Scotland took a momentous step in becoming the guardians of their home, the Isle of Ulva. A successful community buy-out secured the future of the island for the Ulva community. Funds for the acquisition were received from the Scottish Government via the Scottish Land Fund, Macquarie Group Ltd and crowdfunding.
Ulva is a beautiful, remote and almost untouched island that is home to just five residents today. The existing houses are dated and in need of repair but a full refurbishment is planned to transform these dwellings into quality homes for existing and new residents. The island boasts an award winning seafood restaurant, the Boathouse, run by one of Ulva’s own residents. The restaurant and the pedestrian ferry that crosses to Mull are two businesses that operate on the island. The Ulva community are now looking for creative and entrepreneurial people to join them.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) were appointed by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company Ltd (NWMCWC) to assist with their business plan for the renovation of the existing dwellings on the island and to explore opportunities for new builds to encourage repopulation. The island’s population was at one time 600 and as recently as 20 years ago 30 people lived on the island. The aspiration is to create a thriving community both socially and economically and therefore individuals, families and businesses from all walks of life who wish to move to Ulva are invited to participate in the survey.
As part of the renovation of Ulva, the local community have identified immediate employment opportunities for the first stage of Ulva’s transformation. Following decades of neglect buildings, services and forestry have fallen into disrepair and require a significant upgrade. The community are therefore seeking, amongst other things, those who are experienced in construction and / or forestry to relocate to Ulva to restore the island and its assets. A further important trade which could provide an immediate employment opportunity is tourism. The island’s stunning landscape could host campsites, cycle tracks, outdoor activities and many more activities and opportunities that could attract visitors to Ulva and contribute to its growing economy.
Complete our survey to let us know who you are, why you want to move to Ulva, what you would plan to do when living on Ulva and what you can bring to the community of Ulva.
Link to survey: hscht.survey.fm/ulva-survey-1
The Scottish Government have launched a £4 million nationwide Self Build Loan Fund to support self-build projects across Scotland.
At a time where securing self-build mortgages is becoming increasingly difficult, the Scottish Government have launched the Self Build Loan Fund to help those who are interested in building their own home but are struggling to secure suitable finance. The fund will run from September 2018 until 31st August 2021. The £4 million Self Build Loan Fund comes after the success of the pilot Highland Self Build Loan.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) are delighted to have been appointed the agents for the new fund. HSCHT were the agents for the previous pilot fund in the Highlands, which was launched in 2016. Since then HSCHT have helped 12 self-build projects through this fund, with the first few projects coming to a finish earlier this year.
HSCHT are confident after the success of the pilot fund that the nationwide Self Build Loan Fund will be just as effective and very popular.
How does the Self Build Loan Fund Work?
The Self Build Loan Fund is available to help those who have been unable to source a mainstream or high street self-build mortgage. People will be able to borrow up to £175,000 to help them with their self-build project. The fund will provide bridging finance to cover the period of the build, with a mainstream mortgage obtained upon completion of the project in order to repay the loan amount.
How do you apply?
Applications are now open for the Self Build Loan Fund and you can apply through The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s website: www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html
The application process is split into two stages. The first application will establish applicants’ financial status, landownership status, planning status and post completion mortgage status.
If an applicant is successful, they will then need to complete Stage 2 of the application process. This stage will assess the applicants’ build programme, cash flow, building warrant and construction approach.
Once an applicant is successful in both stages, they can then be offered a loan to help with their self-build project.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest to you then please visit www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html for more information, full terms and conditions of the Self Build Loan Fund and the Stage 1 application form. Or if you would like to speak to someone about the Self Build Loan Fund, you can do so by:
Testimonial from self-builder using the pilot Self Build Loan Fund
HSCHT’s 20th Anniversary Conference Dinner and Event
HSCHT organised a Conference Dinner and Event in conjunction with their AGM to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
Dinner, Drinks and Donnie Munro
The Conference Dinner was the first of the two events. It took place on a Thursday evening, at the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel in their Windsor Suite overlooking the bonnie scenes of the River Ness. The dinner was kindly sponsored by Ralph Ogg & Partners.
The evening commenced with a captivating speech by Donnie Munro, Director Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Donnie discussed the importance of affordable housing, the housing difficulties in rural communities and the exciting new Kilbeg village development. HSCHT is working in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Highland Council and the Scottish Government to deliver the next phase of the new village in Kilbeg. Earlier this year the first two houses were completed and the second phase plans will be submitted shortly.
Once Donnie concluded his speech, he picked the winner for the Gin Afternoon Tea prize kindly donated by the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel, which was won by our very own David Fraser. Dinner was then served and followed by a race night, with the proceedings of the race night going to charity.
This is the first Conference Dinner HSCHT have organised and it was great to bring our team, board, community members and businesses together in an informal and relaxed environment.
Donnie Munro and Ronnie MacRae at Conference Dinner
The Main Event
The Conference Event and AGM was held the following day at the Inverness Townhouse Hotel.
HSCHT were very lucky to have several organisations to sponsor different aspects of the Conference Event. Triodos Bank were the main sponsors and Graeme Galloway from Triodos attended the Conference Event to exhibit and take part in the Welcome session on behalf of Triodos and contributed to the Strontian Community School Building session.
HSCHT would like to thank all the organisations who sponsored our Conference Dinner and Event. The sponsor list is as follows:
The Conference Event had several guest speakers covering a range of topics:
The Conference Event provided an opportunity to update people on current housing and community news. It gave people an insight into the work undertaken by HSCHT and other community groups and provided a networking opportunity for people in an array of industries.
Second half top table from left to right: Stewart Nicol, Ronnie MacRae, John Laing, Hamish Trench, Graeme Galloway, Jamie McIntyre and Susan Hunter
The Conference Dinner and Event provided a great opportunity to look back on and celebrate the last 20 years but it was also a great chance to announce some of HSCHT’s new initiatives. This included the launch of the Self Build Loan Fund and the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Fund, two new and unique funds that HSCHT are administering. Both funds aim to encourage and aid self-build projects across Scotland.
For more information on the Self Build Loan Fund look here: www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html
For more information on the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Fund look here:
HSCHT would like to thank all sponsors, guest speakers, exhibitors and anyone who attended the 20th Anniversary Conference Dinner and Event. Both events proved a great opportunity for networking, discussion and celebrations.
HSCHT would also like to acknowledge that the Conference Event ran over schedule slightly during the second half and would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused to any of our attendees.
If you attended our Conference Dinner or Event, we would love to hear your feedback to help us improve for future events.
You can do so by completing our short online survey: hscht.polldaddy.com/s/hscht-s-conference-dinner-event-feedback
The Launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund
On the 14th of September 2018, at the The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Conference Event and AGM, Drew Hendy MP announced the launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund (pictured below).
After launching the new fund, Drew Hendry said:
“I was delighted to join the team at HSCHT to announce this new fund which offers families the opportunity of financial support to build their very own rural home. It’s such a lovely way for Dr and Mrs Faulds family and friends to honour the couple’s longstanding commitment to rural housing.
“This fund wont only secure a better future for families who may have otherwise struggled to own their own home, it will also help ensure the vibrancy of some of our most remote communities - a truly wonderful legacy for the Faulds to leave.”
Pictured: Drew Hendry MP announcing launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust's Conference Event and AGM
But What Exactly is the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund?
The family and friends of Dr J. Steven and Mrs May Faulds have created a fund in their memory to help individuals and families access affordable self-build housing plots across rural Scotland. The fund will help those who are eligible to purchase a plot of land so they can build their own home.
This comes at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to access high street self-build finance and people often find themselves stuck in the vicious cycle of paying expensive rent and being unable to save for their own home which creates strain on the affordable housing sector.
A supporter of the fund explained that the Faulds had strong family links to the West Coast particularly Mull and Skye and a keen interest in the rural economy specifically the need for good quality affordable housing in rural areas. They went on to say that, “The fund is a way to remember them and continue the work they started in an area they were very attached to. We chose the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust to administer the fund due to their extensive experience and success in providing affordable housing and hope that other benefactors might follow our example when they see what it is achieving”.
A representative from HSCHT explained, “We are delighted to be working with the Faulds fund which is providing an innovative way to tackle a very real problem facing rural communities. It is often impossible for families to get support from a bank or building society to buy a building plot. This fund will provide the seed funding many families need to kick start their dream of owning their own home in their community”
How does the Fund work?
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is administering the fund.
HSCHT will work with communities to identify suitable land to purchase, provide the necessary infrastructure, divide it into self-build plots, and then sell them to an individual or family for self-build purposes. If successful, the applicant will be able to purchase a discounted plot of land with full title on a shared-equity basis with a Rural Housing Burden and right of pre-emption attached.
(Visit http://www.hscht.co.uk/rural-housing-burden1.html to read more about the Rural Housing Burden).
Projects will be undertaken to an agreed programme at the end of which loans will be repaid to the fund. This will allow HSCHT to use the fund again and again to help new communities.
Before fully applying, applicants must discuss the desire to build a home with an independent mortgage advisor. This is to ensure that they can secure a mortgage provider for a completed project that was self-built.
Who is Eligible to Apply?
If you wish to build a home but have not been able compete to purchase a house plot on the open market, this fund may be able to assist you. To be eligible, applicants must be able to demonstrate:
Applicants to the fund will be prioritised in the following order:
A register of interest will be held by HSCHT, who will be in touch with applicants if a house plot becomes available for them in their preferred location.
How to Apply to the Fund
To apply for the Dr & Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund contact The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.
T: 01463 233 548.
Pictured: an example of a previous self-build development managed by HSCHT
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is a not for profit charity specialised in working with rural communities to secure long-term solutions to local housing needs. HSCHT often help communities work with local housing partners such as Local Authorities and Housing Associations to increase the range of alternative housing options available while focusing on the specific requirements of each community. The range of housing options available are vast and will be discussed in more detail shortly.
The Local Consultation
The local community feel there is a clear need for alternative housing options in the area. In order to establish demand HSCHT were invited by the Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust to hold a local consultation in the Templar Arts and Leisure Centre (TALC) in Tarbert. The event ran over two days and aimed to establish an understanding of the main housing needs in the area. The attendees discussed a range of housing options, many of which fill the gap between social housing and market value property for example, self-build plots and finance or rent to buy.
The first session was on the 23rd August and ran from 2pm to 7.30pm to allow those who had work commitments to attend in the evening. We had a steady inflow of individuals and couples visit us that expressed their interest in alternative accommodation. The majority of the enquiries focused on housing that would meet individuals current and future needs, affordable to either rent or buy, and located in the centre of Tarbert or Skipness. In addition, local landowners attended the event to express their support for additional housing in the area.
The local consultation continued on the 24th of August from 9am to 1pm to ensure we offered everyone the opportunity that wanted to attend. Along with their own housing concerns, attendees often raised the issue of young families in housing need but very few families actually attended the events.
Housing for Families
On more than one occasion we were informed that there were several young families living in inadequate accommodation due to high market prices and a limited supply of housing, although very few attended the events. In an attempt to reach out to the younger generation and those with busy lifestyles, we launched an online housing survey on Facebook via local Tarbert and Argyll pages. We hope that this online strategy will reach a wider audience including those that wish to move back to the Tarbert and Skipness area.
It is important to encourage those who are currently living in unsuitable housing to have their voice heard as this will be the building blocks to providing evidence of a need for housing in the area. The Tarbert and Skipness community currently have a great opportunity to take advantage of existing Scottish Government mechanisms to deliver a housing project quickly. For this to happen though we need those who have a housing need to talk to us and express their requirements otherwise they will miss out on this opportunity.
Home Argyll – Register your interest!
We asked every individual that passed through the TALC doors whether they had registered their interest with Home Argyll. The responses received varied from ‘yes’ to ‘what is that?’. Home Argyll is a partnership organisation made up of the following five partners: Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll Community Housing Association, West Highland Housing Association, Dunbritton Housing Association and Fyne Homes. These partners determine where to provide additional social housing based on the housing waiting list therefore if an individual has a need for social rented housing in a specific area it should be highlighted through Home Argyll. It is easy to register your interest online but to make it even easier, here is the link: https://www.homeargyll.co.uk/
How do HSCHT assist communities and individuals?
HSCHT understand that some individuals and families may want a home to call their own or a specific housing tenure but cannot compete with open market prices. It is therefore our objective to identify communities where an increased supply of affordable housing would further enhance their economic and social benefits. As HSCHT is a not for profit charity our aim is to provide community benefit to support the longevity of each community we work with. This is achieved by complementing existing housing provision and working closely with housing partners. With 20’ years’ experience, we have a range of unique housing solutions on offer:
· Rent to Buy
· Shared Equity
· Live-Work Units
· Self-Build Loan Fund
· Faulds Memorial Fund
· Discounted Serviced Self-Build Plots
· Deferred Plot Payment
· Empty Homes
· Other housing options
You can find out more about HSCHT on our website: http://www.hscht.co.uk/
Housing for Businesses and Service Providers
HSCHT acknowledge that businesses often struggle to recruit and retain staff due to a shortage of available housing in rural settlements which subsequently causes a negative economic impact on their business and surrounding area. Furthermore, a lack of suitable housing in Tarbert and Skipness can inhibit any new business start-ups. The online survey provides the opportunity for staff from local businesses or owners or those wishing to start a new business in Tarbert or Skipness to raise any issues they may have as a direct consequence of housing and to tell us how we can help.
Population projections for Argyll and Bute indicate an increasing need for service provision from the NHS and emergency services. HSCHT encourage those specialising in service provision to ask their staff to complete the online housing needs survey as their presence in rural communities is essential. It is imperative to ensure an appropriate range of housing options is available to meet key service provider’s needs into the future.
The housing event in Tarbert attracted 25 individuals over the course of two days. The information gathered over the two-day event is invaluable, but we need more people to come forward. If there are families, individuals or couples living in Tarbert, near Tarbert or wish to move to Tarbert or Skipness that cannot find suitable housing, we urge you to complete our online survey that can be found on Facebook or www.hscht.co.uk/surveys to register your interest in acquiring housing that meets your needs. Unfortunately, if there is insufficient demand for alternative housing options in Tarbert and Skipness there will be no strong evidence to support future housing development.
Tarbert and Skipness are located in a beautiful area in Argyll & Bute. Our aim is to improve the social and economic welfare of both settlements by increasing the availability of affordable housing options but it all starts with you. Please, register your interest either through Home Argyll, our online housing survey, or by talking to a member of the Tarbert and Skipness Community Trust. There is always a solution!
Online survey link: www.hscht.co.uk/surveys
Another home built with assistance from the Highland Self Build Loan Fund has reached completion, providing a suitable home for a local family based on the Isle of Skye.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund was launched by the Scottish Government in April 2016, and ever since has been providing financial assistance to self-builders around the Highlands.
Scottish Government originally launched the pilot fund in an attempt to rejuvenate what was once the main housing delivery model in the Highlands, and generate economic activity in the area, through encouraging growth in the “self-build” sector again. It is being administered by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.
This initial pilot scheme - allocated to Highland Council region - provides applicants with up to £175,000 to help them build their own home. The Scottish Government loan is then repaid by the applicants upon project completion, when they have managed to obtain a mortgage from the likes of a bank or building society.
This particular couple were able to obtain a piece of croft land from a family member, before moving into an on-site static caravan with their two children. Their final goal was to eventually build their own family home adjacent to the croft land they planned to eventually work.
Provision of self-build mortgages is not as prolific as it once was. Since the financial crash in 2007/2008, the number of lender offering self-build mortgages has decreased drastically. The few lenders who do still offer such products, often hold strict policies which mean that many do not qualify. Reasons for being denied a self-build mortgage can vary from, because the applicant is self-employed, or wishes undertake too much of the work themselves to the fact land was gifted from a neighbouring family member.
Having previously been turned down by banks and other high street lenders due to the fact they wished to undertake much of the construction work themselves, when the Highland Self Build Loan Fund was announced in 2016, this particular couple saw it as a way to finally build their ideal family home.
Borrowing a somewhat modest amount, the applicants have managed to build to their predicted budget, with the whole project taking about a year to reach completion. They are now in the process of repaying the Scottish Government loan, having secured their final mortgage with their chosen lender with relative ease.
Having self-procured the entire custom build project, the applicants have been able to maintain full control throughout both the design and construction phases. A timber kit was provided by a local highland-based kit manufacturer before being erected by the self-builders themselves. They then went on to undertake the majority of the outstanding work themselves, while also making use of various contacts they had when required. This was a great example of how involved a self-builder can get in their project, with the applicant taking on much of the construction works, including works such as some internal joinery and fitting of the kitchen, installing underfloor heating and wood burning stove, as well as the drainage fittings and external groundworks.
The family have now moved into their home - providing them with large amounts of space compared to the static caravan they have been residing in the last two years.
The house is a great and considered design and provides the family with a modern and energy efficient home. Despite the high quality design and specification, the couple have managed to build relatively affordably, through undertaking the whole management of the build themselves, while also dedicating the majority of their spare time to undertaking large amounts of building work themselves. Through effective management and determination to be fully involved in the construction itself, they continued to identify savings along the way.
The final result, is a home, which should they have purchased a similar home on the open market, would have cost them a considerable amount more.
Living adjacent to their croft land would not have been possible, if self-build finance was not available to them. Many crofters struggle to find suitable accommodation even relatively close to their crofts. Now that this family have completed their build and moved into their new home, they plan to work the croft and are looking at introducing cattle to the land in the near future.
Housing provision in rural areas such as this one is sparse, and it is often impossible to find a suitably sized home within an affordable budget. In the likes of the Isle of Skye many homes are also retained as holiday homes, which pushes up property prices even further. The Highland Self Build Loan Fund has allowed this family to live in the area they want, alongside their friends and family, and build a home which suits the needs of their family, as well as their budget.
The self-builders are extremely happy with their new 3 bedroom family home, and are very appreciative that they were able to obtain financial assistance from Scottish Government.
They have stated: “The Highland Self Build Loan Fund has heled us, when we had all but given up building our own house. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust have been amazing in all they have done to help us from the outset, nothing was too much to ask… making a stressful time much easier. This fund has let us build on our croft, meaning we can work it properly and be near both out families.”
The family are extremely grateful for the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, and have said: “We felt physically and emotionally supported, without the support of HSCHT, we would never have continued with our self build plans.”
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust is delighted to hear such positive feedback, and look forward to seeing other self-builders complete their projects in the near future.
This initial pilot scheme has proved very popular, and has generated huge amounts of enquiries, both in Highland and elsewhere – demonstrating the high demand there is for self-build opportunities around the country. Following the success of the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, Scottish Government have taken note of this, and are currently working on the launch of a national Self Build Loan Fund.
To learn more about the fund, or to download an application pack, please go to www.hscht.co.uk/highland-self-build-loan-fund or get in touch via 01463 233549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HSCHT’s AGM and Annual Conference is taking place in Inverness on Friday 8th September.
We are excited to announce that Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, will be our Keynote Speaker at the event. Many of our members are from communities in Kate’s constituency and we are delighted Kate has agreed to speak at our flagship event.
Please sign up for your place at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hscht-agm-annual-conference-tickets-35695244437
A tree-cutting team from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has been on hand to help a group of forestry trainees gain valuable skills for future employment.
Earlier this month, four trainees attended a one day Chipper Training course on Cawdor Estate, located between the mountain ranges of the Cairngorms and the sandy beaches of the Moray Firth. Using a chipper machine provided by SSEN, the trainees learned how to safely operate the specialist equipment using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), giving them valuable skills to place them in good stead for a future career in the industry.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) runs the Skills Development Programme for young people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training. The programme consists of a full-time college course, personal mentoring, work experience and a training allowance. 85% of HSCHT’s young people go on to further education, modern apprenticeships or full-time employment.
Nicola MacKenzie, Skills Development Programme Manager at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said: "The loan of the SSEN wood chipper and the assistance of staff for a one-day course on Cawdor Estate were essential in enabling four of our forestry trainees to gain their industry standard Operation and Maintenance accreditation, reinforcing safe working practice and placing them in a much better position to gain future employment within the industry.
“This fits very well with the practical work experience our trainees participate in throughout the year and is often key to gaining essential skills and entry into their chosen industry.”
Graham MacLennan, Team Manager, Tree Cutting North at SSEN added: “We were delighted to help The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust by providing a chipper and guidance from our Field Manager Roddy Ross to support four of their forestry trainees with their accreditation.
“We are always happy to help where we can, whether this is spending a day of our time through our ‘Be the Difference’ programme to give back to the community when they need our help, or by providing specialised equipment like we did for HSCHT. I hope the training was beneficial to the four trainees, and they manage to put their newly acquired skills into practice in the near future.”
The completion of a home in Flodigarry, in Staffin on the Isle of Skye, marks the 50th home to be delivered by The Highland Small Communities Housing Trust’s (HSCHT) Rent to Buy scheme.
Utilising loan funding from the Scottish Government, the innovative scheme has provided affordable homes for rent then purchase in more than 20 Highland communities since it was launched in 2013. It has received recognition by the World Habitat Awards in 2015 as a finalist in the competition.
Providing a stimulus to rural economies was a significant driver for the launch of the Rent to Buy Scheme, coupled with the requirement to provide a solution to the challenging mortgage lending market. The requirement for significant deposits to purchase a property was recognised as a major hurdle to home ownership, so Rent to Buy occupants are assisted after the initial rental period with a loyalty cash-back sum to help them to purchase their home.
Several homes have been completed to address specific householder’s needs including a property in Invergarry and one in Auldearn. The 50 properties are widely spread throughout the Highlands and in many locations where mainstream housing options would be unlikely to be provided such as Acharacle, Shieldaig and Balmacara. Several developments are planned in 2017/18 to bring the same benefits to more communities.
Flodigarry is a crofting township in the north-east of Skye and famous for once being the home of Flora MacDonald, who famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture. HSCHT invited the local community to suggest a new name for the house, which is near Dun Flodigarry Hostel and Flodigarry Hotel. Several suggestions were made, most of them in Gaelic, and Flodigarry’s oldest resident, Lena Nicolson, picked “Buailtean Gorma” as her preferred choice. It refers to a site nearby.
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with the Scottish Government and a range of experienced local contractors to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes throughout the Highlands. By recognizing that a wide range of housing tenures are required in rural areas, one of which, the Rent to Buy Scheme enables access to home ownership and it provides households with the opportunity to rent and then purchase their homes with the aid of a loyalty cash-back amount for their mortgage deposit.
The scheme has proved extremely popular and has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period”.
HSCHT is also working closely with the Staffin Community Trust and Lochalsh & Skye Housing Association to bring forward a collaborative development to provide six mixed tenure homes at Stenscholl, Staffin. A planning application has now been lodged with Highland Council. Homes for social rent, community-owned rented homes and rent to buy properties will increase the choice of affordable homes and provide a welcome boost to the area. It is hoped that by utilising recent Scottish Government interventions such as Asset Transfer under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 the Rural & Islands Housing Fund, alongside the traditional delivery mechanism of homes using the Housing Association Grant mechanism, it will make the project viable.
Staffin Community Trust chairman Sandy Ogilvie said:
“The need for affordable housing is felt by all small communities. However there is a greater sense of need from the more remote isolated settlements.
So it is with considerable pleasure we have this outstanding house built here within the township of Flodigarry just waiting for a family to make it their home”.
Minister for Housing Kevin Stewart said:
“I’m delighted that our funding has helped to make affordable housing a reality in this rural area. This latest house in Flodigarry is a great example of providing a tailored solution to the needs of individuals, allowing them to remain within, and sustain, their communities.
“I commend the HSCHT’s innovative Rent to Buy scheme and delighted they have now reached 50 homes across the Highlands”.
A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, who are in a partnership with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. stated:
“R.HOUSE are dedicated to providing architect designed, energy efficient, low-cost, locally built homes that can endure the rigours of the Highland weather. We welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this project with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust providing much needed affordable housing in Flodigarry”.
A house that has lain empty for over 5 years in Achiltibuie has been transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by the Coigach Community Development Company and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust with support from The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation, The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Community ownership, through the transfer of assets, of a disused schoolhouse in the remote community of Achiltibuie, Coigach, Wester Ross has now been given a new lease of life. The Coigach Community Development Company is delighted that the renovation of the old schoolhouse is now complete, with the two newly created flats due for occupation in early March.
An Open Day event to welcome tenants to their new homes was held on Friday 3rd March 2017, attended by those involved in the redevelopment along with people from the village.
Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) project managed the development and is providing housing management services for the properties, which have been allocated to people in housing need.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of HSCHT explained:
“HSCHT is delighted that the schoolhouse redevelopment is now complete. By working closely with The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation and The Highland Council, this adds to the growing number of community-owned housing projects in the Highlands. The Coigach community will benefit greatly from two new fit-for-purpose affordable homes in Achiltibuie. The project demonstrates the great benefits derived from cooperation with the community and we hope to work with them on future projects to benefit Coigach.”
Award-winning David Somerville Architects has redesigned the property, improving the standards with increased insulation and a responsive heating system resulting in low running costs: “With so many ex public sector houses no longer in use throughout the Highlands this project shows how affordable and energy-efficient accommodation can be made available to young families in remote communities.” The renovation was carried out by Highland based contractors, Kinellan Building Ltd.
Included in the conversion was a complete internal and external redecoration, with completely new kitchens and bathrooms also being installed. Externally the overgrown garden has been landscaped to provide bin stores and a new pathway and steps leading up to the house. Windows and doors were refurbished, while new ones were installed where required.
Increasing the thermal mass of the property was important to the project. To do this, the conversion incorporated the raising of the floors to lay Kingspan insulation beneath, while also placing of 100mm mineral wool insulation in all walls between bedrooms and living rooms. Roof insulation was also increased, by laying 150mm thick earthwool insulation between ties, and 100mm thick over the rafters.
This, as well as the upgrading of services, wiring and lighting, as well as the introduction of new combined electric boiler and domestic hot water stores in each new flat, has created a more modern, much warmer and more energy efficient home.
The Scottish Government’s new Rural Housing Fund was instrumental in funding this renovation, which is the first project to be completed through this mechanism. The fund has proved popular with communities with aspirations to own their own homes and it complements other recent interventions from the Scottish Government, such as the Scottish Land Fund, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
“We recognise the challenges of developing affordable housing in remote rural areas and so I’m delighted that the Scottish Government was able to provide funding to this worthwhile project through the Rural Housing Fund. The successful conversion of a former schoolhouse into two homes for affordable rent will make a positive impact on this coastal community in northwestern Scotland.”
HSCHT received funding of £120,000 from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy to bring long-term empty properties back into use. This funding also contributed towards the completion of another property recently, Druim Garbh, owned by the Acharacle Community Company.
Sam Stewart, Head of Programmes at the Nationwide Foundation, says:
“It is unacceptable that there is a shortage of decent, affordable homes in the Scottish Highlands, while at the same time there are properties standing empty. Too often local people have no realistic housing options and are forced to move out of the area they were brought up in. We are delighted that our funding has contributed towards two great homes for the new tenants. The community-led housing model used at the schoolhouse by HSCHT offers rural communities a real way to keep local people living in their communities.”
Julia Campbell, Coigach Community Development Company said:
“We at CCDC are thrilled to see the lights back on Achiltibuie Schoolhouse and to see it lived in once again. Lack of housing is a big challenge in Coigach and has been cited again and again by the local community as top of their "to do" list in numerous surveys and consultations.
We are very grateful to our funders: Scottish Government's Rural Housing Fund, The Nationwide Foundation, and The Highland Council (who also transferred the house to the community at nominal cost as well as assisting with the development), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise who funded our legal fees and have provided ongoing support to CCDC as part of their Community Account Management programme. We'd also especially like to thank HSCHT who have supported us throughout the process and made it all possible.
The first tenants will move in soon and are both valuable members of our community with local family connections here and both bring extended economic benefit to the area through their employment. On a personal level, I am particularly happy to see the Schoolhouse back in action as it was my first home, and like many in the community I'm very fond of it. This has been a real community effort too: CCDC's board is made up of a hardy band of volunteers, and local folk have really pitched in to help and support the development.”
Lindsay Simpson, Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross - Development Manager at Highlands & Islands Enterprise said:
“Coigach Community Development Company is the anchor organisation for HIE’s Community Capacity Building Programme and we have been working intensively with them for a number of years.
CCDC’s Community Development Plan, written in early 2012, identified housing as one of the main priorities for action. The creation of these two housing units will go a long way in providing valuable affordable accommodation in an area where housing provision is scarce and expensive. This will encourage young families to remain in the area and could provide key-worker housing.
HIE is proud to support communities across the region not only realise their ownership aspirations but also, use this resource to benefit the local area”.
Cllr. Isabelle Campbell, The Highland Council said:
“I was delighted to attend The Open Day in Achiltibuie today to celebrate the completion of a joint venture of an empty school house transformed into two affordable homes. The funding package secured by The Highlands Small Communities Trust and the Coigach Community Development Company with support from The Scottish Government, The Nationwide Foundation, The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The Coigach Community Development Company have illustrated how community ownership through transfer of assets of a disused schoolhouse can produce two affordable homes in a rural community with housing need.
The development has been project managed by The Highlands Small Communities Trust. May I congratulate the Coigach Development Trust on their enterprise and vision for their community”.
Since the completion of the project, it has received recognition from Shelter Scotland.
Adam Lang, Head of Communications and Policy at Shelter Scotland, said:
“Through our management of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership we know that far too many private properties are lying empty while people wait years for affordable homes to rent.
The Achiltibuie project is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when a community is supported to bring an empty property back into use. It offers real hope to the many places across Scotland where people are forced to watch buildings decay when they could be transformed into much needed homes.”
Adam Lang added:
“Affordable housing is vital to the sustainability of communities. For places like Achiltibuie, community-driven schemes to bring empty homes back into use could play a vital role in meeting demand.”
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.