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 / Scottish Land Commission
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.
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 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.
Scotland’s involvement in European events and networks like the International Social Housing Festival, Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities (SHICC), and the European Community Land Trust Network sparks innovation and forges cross-cultural connection.
Collaborating on research and testing pilot initiatives together pools limited resource.
More importantly, it helps us keep our ideas sharp so that we give the best tried and tested support to communities here in Scotland. Recognition of Scottish projects on the European stage also reminds us that our communities inspire others beyond our borders and connect us with policy, practice, and people elsewhere. Community is at the heart of our work in more ways than one.
Highland community-led housing sees international acclaim
Scottish community-led housing received international attention in June as the regeneration of Achtercairn in Gairloch on the coast of Wester Ross won at the European Responsible Housing Awards in Finland.
The awards are held annually as part of the International Social Housing Festival, organised by Housing Europe, a network of 43,000 housing providers across 25 countries, to showcase outstanding examples from affordable housing providers from the continent.
The project in Gairloch won the ‘More Than A Roof’ category, recognising it as a development where impacts go beyond ‘just’ homes and where equal opportunities for the community are supported.
This is deserving recognition for a small rural community who were keen to tackle the difficulties of depopulation, declining services, and lack of affordable homes and business premises that are affecting communities across the region. Rural communities pay more for less housing, which is less secure, even as they earn less than urban areas, and the cost of living is higher – which makes this project a model for change.
With European countries recognising the model and all we’ve jointly been able to achieve in Scotland by working with communities who lack the capacity themselves, it was therefore disappointing to see such little recognition on home turf: in the media, by authorities, and by policymakers. How loud must communities shout?
The Communities Housing Trust facilitated the regeneration, together with around 50 partner organisations and input from local residents.
Together they transformed the derelict brownfield site into a thriving new geographic centre for the village.
Achtercairn now includes 25 affordable homes (five affordable housing tenures, with three different providers); Gairloch Farm Shop, which also houses the local vet; Air Training Corps facility; and the GALE Centre which is Scotland’s first public building to be awarded Passivhaus status. The Centre includes a Tourist Information Hub, a community-run shop and café, an outlet to support the wider region, community rooms to rent, and veg-growing and composting area for the café. A University of the Highlands and Islands classroom which enables people of all ages to access learning opportunities has moved to larger premises.
Importantly for the long term, the homes are secure, provided by the local authority (Highland Council), a housing association (Albyn Housing Society), and the Communities Housing Trust. They are also highly energy efficient to help reduce living costs. The Rural Housing Burden is applied to the homes for sale which protects affordability and use for the local community in perpetuity.
An award-worthy model for responsible housing
The awards’ focus on ‘responsible’ housing looks for projects that show co-creation and involvement of partners; innovation; and true sustainable development, both for climate and community. This echoes the Communities Housing Trust’s and SOSCH’s practical work in community-led development as an excellent way to provide housing which creates truly affordable, decent homes for many generations to come.
The clear advantage of community-led development is that it allows residents to think and act broadly and holistically about their needs: How can we reduce bills? Are there any spaces for community groups to meet? Is there a key service lacking locally? How can businesses grow, or set up? Are all ages catered for? What happens when children wish to leave home and work locally? How can tackling climate change be integrated?
Because of the broad approach and long-term view, community-led developments give more bang per buck. But it’s about so much more than just the money. When primary school rolls rise, a diverse range of businesses can pop up, and local residents are guaranteed secure homes forever, it helps to reverse a trend of outward migration and struggling rural areas. Residents can put down roots and thrive as vibrant communities into the future.
Achtercairn is one of many projects that shows what’s possible for rural communities in Scotland, as well as elsewhere in the UK – and Europe.
Scotland’s place in Europe – a formal partner in European Knowledge Exchange
The Communities Housing Trust’s recent award continues a trend of Scottish involvement in the European community-led housing scene. In 2020, SOSCH were invited to become the formal Scottish partner in a North-West European Interreg knowledge exchange programme between seven countries. ‘Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities’ (SHICC) tackled rising house prices and unsuitable living conditions in urban areas. SOSCH’s involvement was catalysed by its support to the ground-breaking Midsteeple Quarter project in Dumfries Town Centre.
Midsteeple Quarter now have five buildings in community ownership and continue to pioneer community-led regeneration of a High Street in decline—a challenge that many urban areas around the continent face in the wake of Covid. Midsteeple Quarter also partnered with SHICC member Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) to test new governance tools within the Generative Commons Living Lab Horizon 2020 project, emphasising the lasting links of collaboration.
Although the programme formally ended in 2021, SOSCH are now founding members of the European Community Land Trust Network (ECLTN). The next phase of this important information exchange includes learning from best practice in delivery models, innovative net zero and economic modelling, but also sharing some of the excellent work being delivered in community-led housing here in Scotland. SOSCH’s involvement in the creation of the ECTLN means the Scottish community-led housing network will support the development of new CLH organisations and projects beyond our borders.
The new ECLTN brings community land trusts and community-led housing enablers from SHICC together with design agencies, social entrepreneurs, and researchers to develop a comprehensive response to the dual housing and climate crises. This initial stage of network development (January-June 2022) is funded by €100,000 from the Laudes Foundation. SOSCH returned to Amsterdam last week for a second series of workshops designed to kickstart the network.
SOSCH, along with our European CLT Network partners, are also jointly submitting proposals to Interreg and Horizon Europe programmes to grow the important work we have begun together. These programmes intend to test the effectiveness of community-led housing initiatives as circular developers, studying the community-led housing sector’s unique ability to deliver on social and environmental objectives in tandem for a truly just transition.
Scottish participation in international learning exchange networks has been valuable for our enabling work. Community-led housing takes different forms and responds to various local challenges, but cross-border collaboration indicates it is consistently impactful as a place-making approach to combat speculative markets and unaffordable homes. This will become only more important as Scotland experiences a cost-of-living crisis—another reminder that we operate within a broad European context. We believe Scottish participation in collaborative learning projects such as the European Network for Community Land Trusts should be encouraged and supported by the Scottish Government.
We are asking the Scottish Government to firmly support community-led housing, and community-led facilitators, by giving them a central position within affordable housing and place-making policy and funding streams. The important contributions of the community-led housing sector are being recognised beyond our borders in our neighbouring European countries, many of whom have progressive and well-established policy support.
SOSCH and CHT are asking for full recognition of the community-led model and related support - particularly for small communities who lack the capacity to undertake projects themselves - here at home.
You can read more about CHT's award on the European Responsible Housing website, and more about the project here on CHT's own website.
You can read more about SOSCH’s participation in the SHICC project and European CLT Network in a recent blog.
 See Registers of Scotland Property Market Report 2021 p47 https://www.ros.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/189001/Property-Market-Report-2020-21.pdf; the Scottish Government’s Poverty In Rural Scotland Evidence Review 2021: https://www.gov.scot/publications/poverty-rural-scotland-review-evidence/pages/5/ and https://www.gov.scot/publications/poverty-rural-scotland-review-evidence/pages/6/
 See e.g. Capital Economics’ report (2020) ‘Housing by the community, for the community’ https://www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/999-final-report-capital-economics-housing-by-the-community-for-the-community-sept-2020-2.pdf and Community Land Scotland’s report (2020) ‘Home Delivery: Community Led Housing in rural Scotland’ https://www.communitylandscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Home-delivery_Community-led-rural-housing.pdf
The new community-owned housing, health and business development in Staffin, Skye, has won a national award.
The Scottish Homes Awards 2022 were held in Glasgow's Hilton Hotel on 23 June, and recognise excellence in the new build housing industry.
Families moved into the six three-bedroom homes at Taighean a' Chaiseil, Stenscholl earlier this year. The £1.6million development won the Community Contribution Award which recognises the efforts of ‘delivering a significant contribution to a local community’.
As well as the new homes, the site also houses a brand new community-owned NHS health centre, and business and workshop units, helping to improve access to rural services and boost the local economy.
In the process Taighean a Chaiseil - which was a joint project by Staffin Community Trust, the Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association - beat fierce competition from across Scotland at the prestigious ceremony.
The judging panel assessed more than 130 entries in 14 categories from across Scotland and 550 guests gathered to celebrate the 15th annual Scottish Home Awards, sponsored by Ross & Liddell, which attracts more than 60 of Scotland’s leading house builders.
Colin Cumberland, chairman of the Scottish Home Awards judging panel, and head of residential at Ediston Real Estate, said: “In my first year as chair of these important awards, I have been impressed by the quality of the entries and the effort made by organisations. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners and we look forward to the continued improvement of high quality, sustainable new build housing."
Staffin Community Trust (SCT) and its project partners, the Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, were unable to attend the awards in person but were delighted at the recognition, and would like to sincerely thank the Staffin community for all the support over several years to deliver the long-awaited and much-needed development.
Around 12 adults and eight children have moved into the new homes. Staffin’s population had reduced by 40 people (6.6 per cent) from 610 residents to 568 people in just four years, prior to SCT starting the project feasibility back in 2014.
SCT would also like to thank all the various project funders including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Land Fund, Rural Housing Fund, SSE Sustainable Development, LEADER, Quaker Housing Trust, the Ecology Building Society and Alasdair Gillies without whom the development would not have materialised. SCT was also very grateful for Highland Council support which allowed the contractor to start on site in August 2020.
Rural Design were the architects for Taighean a' Chaiseil and it was built by James MacQueen Building Contractors Ltd, both Skye-based firms.
NHS Highland became the long-term tenants of the health centre at the development last month and the new facility will be operational soon. Local aquaculture firm Organic Sea Harvest, which employs 18 people full-time, is also hoping to have the internal fit-out work of two business premises, next to the health centre, carried out this summer.
Income from all three properties will allow SCT to manage and maintain the development and any surplus will be spent on further community projects.
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.