Earlier this month HSCHT attended the Social Enterprise Summit at the Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness. The day was a great success, with a big turn out from representatives from social enterprises of various backgrounds. There was also a variety of speakers throughout the day.
Below Morven Taylor discusses the event, and some opinions on the topic of social enterprise.
For more information on the Social Enterprise Summit – Please go to http://www.socialenterprisesummit.org.uk
Social Enterprise must move on from grant funding model
One of the common causes we found when talking with other organisations at the recent Social Enterprise Summit was the need to establish a sustainable business model.
Like The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, many groups we talked to had been set up thanks to grant funding, and in many cases have received further grants to keep going. But the whole idea of social enterprise is that it works as a business model, not because it wants to make a profit but because every group wants to ensure its continued, independent existence.
Everyone at the summit had a cause they are passionate about, something they work towards every day because they believe it provides an important benefit to others in the community. In our case, that is the provision of high quality, warm, suitable housing for those that live and work in small Highland communities.
Even without companies or private sellers and landlords trying to make a profit, housing is an expensive business, so there are few opportunities for us to make a surplus without impacting on the very people we want to help. That’s why we are increasingly thinking of secondary businesses we can set up that will turn a bit more of a surplus, while still helping to work towards our core cause.
This was a popular approach among the other social enterprises we met in Inverness at the summit, and we have picked up many ideas and sources of inspiration. One of the best thing about these offshoot businesses is that they often cater to social causes that other third sector organisations also subscribe too, meaning that links can be forged and we can keep money within the social enterprise family by buying services and even goods from each other. This helps us all get on a more sustainable path, and at the same time expands the range of services being offered here in the Highlands and Islands.
We at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust are used to focusing on sustainability in the homes we build or help others to build, but it is equally important to ensure that our organisational model means we will still be here to help the next generation find a suitable Highland home, and the one after that too.
On Tuesday 9th June 2015, we held an Open Day, to mark the opening of our newly completed Invergarry project. It was attended by those who helped to make their dream become a reality along with family members of the new tenants, friends and some people from the local village.
The couple moving into the home, have lived in the area for 16 years, and have brought up their two children there. The wife of the couple suffers from multiple sclerosis which has resulted in her requiring a wheelchair. This has proved very difficult in there current property – which was not wheelchair friendly at all, including elements such as stairs.
They contacted HSCHT to find a solution to their housing issues due to their existing home being difficult to adapt to suit Carol’s health needs. . A self-build project was considered but this option proved to be difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons. Still wanting to assist the family to find a solution, in 2013, HSCHT was awarded loan funding from the Scottish Government to provide homes through a Rent to Buy Scheme. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly, allowing the design of the new build home for low cost home ownership to be tailored specifically for the couple.
The Rent To Buy scheme has proved to be a very successful project for both HSCHT and the Scottish Government. Not only have they managed to provide affordable housing solutions to families and communities around the Highlands, but in this particular case, they have managed to make a couples life so much easier.
Unable to find alternative suitable housing in the area, should this project not have gone ahead, the couple were facing the reality that they may have to move away from the community after 16 years. Not only are they a big part of their community, but the prospect of a life altering move away would have provided them both with a lot of unnecessary stress.
The new house was built by local joinery and construction firm – A&N Fraser, who did a great job on the project and also attended the Open Day. Within the house design is a number of features ad design choices which make the day to day life of the couple so much easier. Through the Rent To Buy Scheme, a brand new affordable home is being provided to this couple, that not only allows them to remain within their community, but was also designed to be tailor-built to suit their particular needs, including an low windows, level access to the garden and into the house via a car port, an en-site wetroom and wide hallways. The circulation of the property remains fluid and flexible, while incorporating a number of doorways between the rooms.
Tuesday itself was a great day. Tying in with the couples Anniversary, they were given a set of keys to their new property. Many people from the community turned up for the Open Day marking the completion of the home, as well as others involved in the project such as representatives from the Scottish Government, with Mairi Ross speaking at the event.
The couple were extremely happy with their new home, with Carol saying:
“I’m so excited to finally be getting the house we’ve waited so long for. The fact that we got the keys on our anniversary made it even more special, it’s just the best present ever. When ou’re disabed, everything has to be done differently and even things like moving from my wheelchair to the stairlift was becoming too hard. I’ve been telling everyone about this new house so I can’t wait to move in now”
This project is just another example of the varying ways HSCHT try to help people in rural communities with their housing problems. We have known the couple for a few years now while trying to help them with their situation through various means, and it is amazing to finally be able to provide them with a home which suits their needs, while also allowing them to remain within their community.
If you have any questions regarding the Rent To Buy Scheme, or any of the other work that HSCHT do, please feel free to get in touch. Either by calling us on 01463 233549, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.