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 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!”
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has had previous experience with renovating empty properties in order to provide great affordable accommodation to local families and individuals in rural communities. For this reason, Laggan Community Trading Company contacted HSCHT for their assistance with the project. HSCHT managed the project, from sending out the original tender documentation and assessing submissions, right up until the property was ready for a new individual or family to move in.
Leasing The Property -
An agreement was put in place between Laggan Community Trading Company and the Highland Council, which stated that upon completion of the renovation, Highland Council would manage and let the property.
Funding The Project -
Although LCTC had some reserves to put towards the renovation project, the majority of the works was funded by Highland Council, who provided a £15,000 grant, and a £15,000 loan. The loan is interest-free, and allows for a total of 5 years before it has to be repaid. This £30,000 contributed massively to the overall renovation costs.
Both the grant and loan were able to be drawn-down at various stages throughout the project. Another large benefit to making the project viable, was that due to the property being empty for over 2 years, only 5% VAT was to be charged on any works, as opposed to 20%. This proved to provide a massive reduction in the overall cost of the project.
The Tendering Process -
It was important to the project to use local contractors. For this reason HSCHT contacted a number of local contractors within the area to gauge who may be interested We then issued the tender documentation, before assessing and deciding on a small local contractor who would undertake the whole project along with his chosen subcontractors.
The Renovation -
There was a vast amount of work carried out on the property during its renovation. This included everything from massively increasing the thermal mass through additional
wall and roof insulation, to complete redecoration, relining, painting and decorating and re-dressing of internal doors. Old brick cupboards were demolished, including the removal of asbestos, and a completely new kitchen was installed. Plumbing work and a complete re-wire of the property also took place. New lighting fixtures, extractor fans, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors were installed too.
A large part of the renovation was the installing of completely new roof sarking, felt and slates.
In order to increase energy efficiency of the property, new high performance uPVC double glazed windows were put in the upstairs bedroom, which previously did not have escape windows that met building standards. New storage heaters were installed throughout the property, and a woodburning stove, hearth and metal chimney liner were put in place.
Externally, repair work was done to the chimney, new rainwater goods were introduced, a coal bunker was demolished, and the whole render and external woodwork was painted.
Towards the completion of the renovation, Highland Council inspected the property to ensure that it was up to their standard, which highlighted a few snagging issues which were not considered originally. The project was completed in the spring of 2016 and is now managed and let by the Highland Council to a young local family. HSCHT monitored the project throughout the process, and Laggan Community Trading Company were incredibly pleased with the final outcome.
This is another great example, of how small community led groups, the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, and local and statutory authorities such as the Highland Council can work together to turn empty properties into great affordable family homes, in areas where accommodation options are few.
In rural communities around the Highlands such as Strathmashie, people are increasingly being forced to leave their families, jobs and friends behind in search of a suitable home. In this particular case, making an affordable home available to a young family with two children, provides many benefits to the surrounding community, including increasing the local school roll.
In the first of this three part blog regarding the recently renovated property in Acharacle, owned by the Acharacle Community Company, I aim to discuss the background of the project as we gear up for our big Open Day next week (Wednesday 15th of July) which will mark the projects official completion.
In the Highlands there are numerous communities and small rural villages and towns which are home to a number of empty properties, remaining uninhabited. Renovating empty homes is something The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust believes greatly in, as it is yet another way that we are able to provide affordable housing solutions to rural communities around the north of Scotland. Despite the current housing shortage, the UK has around 260,000 long term empty homes, with a large number of empty commercial properties which could be used as homes.
Community Owned Property
Druim Garbh, is a timber-framed, three-bedroom detached dwelling house that was built circa 1976. The community owned property had many uses since it was built, however over recent years had been left empty to deteriorate. Although the house was still standing and structurally stable, it required much renovation before it could provide as a good home for a member or family within the community of Acharacle.
A minute of agreement and a lease is in place between HSCHT the Acharacle Community Company. This allows HSCHT to manage the property on their behalf for a period of 21 years after which the home reverts to the control of the community company.
HSCHT intends to lease the home to tenants which fit with the agreed allocations policy on a Short Assured Tenancy basis.
Environmental, economic and social sustainability are all qualities which HSCHT believes are very important to modern housing provision. In HSCHT’s quest to secure affordable housing solutions around the north of Scotland, we also attempt to create environmentally friendly homes. Specified in the tender document was the need for the house to meet an overall standard of energy performance. In this case, that standard in terms of Building Standards is ‘Bronze Active Standard’
Bronze Active Standard – This is the baseline level where the dwelling meets the functional standards set out in Sections 1 – 6 of this [Building Standards Domestic 2013] Handbook, but in addition the dwelling includes the use of a low and zero carbon generating technology (LZCGT) in respect of meeting Standard 6.1 within Section 6, Energy. This level is primarily to assist local authorities to meet their obligations under Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 by identifying the use of LZCGT. In this respect, LZCGTs include: wind turbines, water turbines, heat pumps (all varieties), solar thermal panels, photovoltaic panels, combined heat and power units (fired by low emission sources), fuel cells, biomass boilers/stoves and biogas.’
Another key aspect of the project was the introduction of a trainee element. The provision of training and jobs to young people around the Highlands is another very important part of the work HSCHT undertake. We even have our own construction skills project – The Cairngorm Skills Project. (http://www.cairngormsskillsproject.org/)
The Nationwide Foundation were also hoping that the project would allow for a trainee to work on the renovation.
Thanks to financial aid from The Highland Council, HSCHT were able to fund a trainee position. The young trainee, who is local to Acharacle, has been working as a second man to the main joiner working on the renovation, providing him with a vast amount of experience as he develops many different skills. He will be starting college later in the year to gain further knowledge in the subject as he works towards a gaining a qualification. The experience gained working on the Druim Garbh project, will hopefully provide him with a great boost as he begins his studies.
HSCHT’s own graduate trainee, who has a MA in Architecture has also been helping to project manage the refurbishment of the property.
The contractor for the project was chosen through a tender process. The tender document was sent to a number of local contractors, with S & K MacDonald Homes being chosen as the successful contractor.
HSCHT then worked out the final details of the renovation work with Kenneth Macdonald of S & K MacDonald homes, assessing the various options for things such as heating etc. The contractor worked very closely with HSCHT to allow us to achieve an affordable project that fit well with the funding that had been made available to us by the Nationwide Foundation.
UPCOMING OPEN DAY
Keep a look out for Part 2 and Part 3 of this Blog over the next couple of weeks.
One blog will take a further look at the property and what renovation works have been carried out. As well as a look at how the property achieves its high Energy Performance Level.
The other will showcase the completed home, as well as recap our Open Day.
For more information on the project or our upcoming Open Day, please get it touch with me via email@example.com
The Nationwide Foundation
This is the reason the Nationwide Foundation set up their Empty Homes Fund in late 2013. The Nationwide Foundation is a registered charity set up in 1997 by Nationwide Building Society that since its creation, has awarded over £30 million to other charities across the UK. This funding allows organisations such as HSCHT to turn these empty properties into habitable homes. The fund was designed to bring empty properties into use for people in housing need and also to look at solutions to the challenges which currently curtail more renovation. HSCHT applied to the fund to help to refurbish and bring two homes back into use in the Highlands. Druim Garbh is the first completed home under this scheme.
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.