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.
Loans of up to £175,000 are now available to help people build their own homes in the Highlands.
The Scottish Government’s £4 million Highland Self-Build Loan Fund which launched in April 2016 is extending opportunities for people to self and custom build homes across the region.
The available loan funding has now been increased from £150,000 to £175,000 to help an even greater number of people across the Highland Council area.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund is a Scottish Government pilot scheme which aims to rejuvenate what was once the main housing delivery model in the Highlands, and generate growth in the “self-build” sector again. It is being administered by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, who are now accepting applications.
The fund will increase economic activity in the area and provide financial assistance to people who have in recent years been unable to progress with their self-build projects.
Announcing the changes to available loan funding, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
“This £4 million Self-Build Loan Fund is an important opportunity to address the lending difficulties experienced by households looking to build their own homes, and explore how we can increase housing supply while allowing customers to input into the design.
“We have taken on board feedback that the £150,000 cap is too restrictive, which is why we are now increasing this cap and making loans of up to £175,000 available for people to build homes that can better suit their needs. We will continue to monitor and review the pilot over its two year lifespan.
“This loan fund is part of our More Homes Scotland approach. The government is determined to accelerate housing supply across all tenures, to support families across Scotland get on the housing ladder.”
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund is already providing loans which are allowing development to take place across the Highlands, including in smaller rural communities, where new build housing is scarce. This will help meet the housing needs of the community, and will therefore prevent outward migration and boost local employment and skills.
Individuals and families, may have found themselves spending years trying to obtain suitable finance to help them build their own homes, many of which may have spent a considerable amount of time in unsuitable living conditions.
This new fund will help these people finally realise their dream, and allow them to move into more comfortable surroundings once they have completed their build.
CEO of HSCHT, Ronnie MacRae has said:
“We are delighted to see in the upper limit increased for applications to £175,000. The Scottish Government’s Highland Self Build Loan Fund now has the potential to assist many more Highland households to build their own homes and provide the added social and economic benefits at the same time. We welcome this flexible and responsive approach and the many other new initiatives being provided by The Scottish Government. It is an exciting time for housing options in Scotland.”
We are extremely happy to announce that The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has just secured a total of £3 million from the Scottish Government to fund our very successful Rent to Buy Scheme.
This funding will contribute towards the building of around 25 new homes in rural areas around the whole of the Highlands. The houses will be rented for five years to people who cannot afford to instantly buy their own home within the current property market.
The Rent To Buy scheme is an innovative way we look to secure affordable housing for individuals and families who are struggling to get on the property ladder.
Rent To Buy – An Affordable Way To Own Your Own Home
The tenant rents the home for a period of 5 years in an attempt to save up a deposit before purchasing the property. After this 5 year period, HSCHT will also return a percentage of the rent paid to go towards the deposit on the home.
Due to the attachment of a Rural Housing Burden, where the trust maintains 20% equity of the property, it is possible to sell the house to the tenant for about 20% lower than the market value. We also hold the right of pre-emption on the property.
The price of the homes are agreed upon at the beginning of the rental period, ensuring the tenant is not affected by rising house prices.
This will be our third phase of Rent To Buy developments, currently in the process of supplying around 37 new homes to people around the Highlands. In the past our projects have been developed in the following list of villages and towns, some of which (mainly Phase 2) we are currently working on or are due to start shortly:
Phase 1 – Dornoch, Fodderty, Beauly, Auldearn, Lochcarron, Gairloch and Sheildag.
Phase 2 – Dornoch, Gorthleck, Inverarnie, Auldearn, Sheildag, Balmacara, Kyleakin, Flodigarry, Aviemore, Strontian, Acharacle, Invergarry and Mallaig.
Our third phase of Rent To Buy units will aim to supply great affordable housing solutions to towns and villages around the Highlands. Various and different housing types will be supplied to more communities, as HSCHT aim to benefit people in new areas of the Highlands, and perhaps in communities we have worked with in the past.
In an interview with STV News, Ronnie MacRae, our chief executive, said:
“The Scottish Government’s approach to innovative and increased rural development is hugely helpful, and this scheme which has various benefits is proving extremely popular with individuals, contractors and communities alike. The scheme is based entirely on loan finance which has the potential to be recyclable and provide social and economic benefit to rural communities for the longer term.”
The Housing minister Margaret Burgess, who announced the funding during today’s Scotland Policy Event has stated:
“This successful Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme is giving people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder. Despite financial challenges over the last few years from Westminster, housing continues to be a priority for us. We are three quarters of the way towards achieving our target of 30,000 additional affordable homes by the end of this Parliament. This boost to the Rural Rent to Buy Scheme will make sure rural communities don’t miss out and they also benefit from new affordable houses which otherwise would not have been built”
Margaret Burgess came to visit some of our projects earlier this year during the summer. She was even present to mark the completion of our Rent To Buy and Greener Homes projects in Fodderty. Meeting with the 4 families as they settled into their new homes – 4 semi-detached modern and sustainable designs by MAKAR Construction.
MSP Margaret Burgess, Visiting Our Fodderty Homes Earlier This Year With Our Chair Bill Hall
We are very excited about these new developments, and hope we are able to help people and communities greatly in the near future.
Click on this link – 3 Million For Highland Homes – to read the full press release by the Scottish Government about the fund.
If you would like any information about our current Rent To Buy Developments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In other news this week at HSCHT, the first two of our Greener Homes in Alness have been bought, with each looking forward to moving in to their new new modern and sustainable houses. We are currently still looking for tenants to the other two homes in Alness, as well as properties in Dornoch, Kyleakin and Lochcarron.
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.