Our development with Staffin Community Trust was featured on the BBC's Disclosure programme on Monday, in an episode about the difficulties finding housing, particularly for younger and low-income folk.
There's no doubt that finding affordable, quality housing is a huge struggle for many rural communities across Scotland.
So what are the positives? The Taighean a' Chaisheil development in Staffin is a community-led and community-owned development, with sale prices and rents set lower than the area average. The community trust decides an allocation policy for the homes (where allocations are made independently of the trust and community, importantly), and the homes for sale have a Rural Housing Burden attached, which means the discounted price applies to all future sales, and again local folk are prioritised in the allocation process.
Yes, it may not be enough homes just now, and it may take longer than standard commercial developments BUT:
We want this to be seen as a positive example of WHAT'S POSSIBLE: a community taking the future into their own hands, finding partners to help make it happen, and doing something about it - as a way to alleviate immediate need; to prove it works, which helps make the case for larger scale projects; and to inspire confidence in other communities to address their own needs and aspirations.
In terms of possible solutions, Staffin Community Trust are already demonstrating it on the ground. And there is such a range of housing options available now, beyond social or mid-market rent - for example Low Cost Home Ownership (as demonstrated in Staffin), or discounted self-build.
Together in Staffin we'll have housed 6 more local families, provided new space for small businesses, and a new NHS health centre. It's a start...
(In addition, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Kilbeg was also mentioned in the programme - we're working in partnership with them on a rather exciting project, site pictured below. More about that very shortly!)
The Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA) is launching a survey to inform what housing is needed now and into the future.
In partnership with the Communities Housing Trust, MCHA is currently identifying possible sites for housing in the area. The survey results will help shape what housing is provided, led by the needs and aspirations of the community, and will help ensure future sustainability.
MCHA is particularly keen to retain younger people, families and those working in the area, and to provide suitable affordable homes for local people.
As well as current residents, MCHA would also like to hear from people wanting to return or re-locate to the area, and local businesses – including potential new businesses.
Graham Campbell, Chair of MCHA, said: “Housing is a significant issue for many rural communities, including Minginish, and as such a key priority for MCHA. We encourage all interested parties to complete the survey, so that the CHT can fully understand the demand and issues locally, and use this to identify solutions and inform funding bids. This is your opportunity to influence your future and our community's future.”
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be working with the Minginish community to understand their specific needs. We suspect demand is high here, and we now have increased opportunities with Scottish government policies on land reform, supporting rural housing and community empowerment.
“Community-led housing is often the best option in small, rural communities, as it can be tailored, providing a mix of tenures as well as a mix of house sizes, to give the greatest possible flexibility to residents.”
The surveys can be completed online before Sunday 26 September at: https://www.chtrust.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.
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”.
Construction of two new affordable homes will begin shortly at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig through The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Rent to Buy Scheme.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is working in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO) to provide two sustainable low-cost homes for rent and then purchase next to the College in Kilbeg, Skye. This is the first stage of an exciting wider development which is strongly supported by the Scottish Government, The Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise. It is anticipated the scheme will provide a varied range of housing and commercial opportunities over the next few years to enhance the campus facilities and to create a more vibrant, sustainable community.
Dr. Donnie Munro, Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said: We are delighted to be working with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to facilitate the development of these first two houses on the new Kilbeg site and also delighted that the works have been awarded to two local companies. HSCHT has a proven track record of working sensitively and innovatively within economically fragile rural areas throughout the Highlands to provide housing in a manner which takes full account of local need. With Phase 1 of the Kilbeg Development successfully delivered, this is the next step on an exciting journey to creating a sustainable model for a 21st Century Highland village which has Gaelic language and culture very much at its heart. To achieve this, we will work creatively and innovatively through key partnerships to provide affordable housing and enterprise opportunities in the area.
The recent Sleat Housing Needs Survey has been most useful in showing that ...’low cost housing is required, as well as new rental development to keep up with local business growth, such as with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and the population increase identified in census data.’ In addition to the first phase of housing, Sabhal Mòr is also currently about to embark upon a full Feasibility Study and Business Plan into providing badly needed facilities for Sports, Recreation, Health and Fitness for the area, as a critical part of the wider Kilbeg development plan.
At the turf cutting ceremony on the new Kilbeg housing sites are (from left) Steven Gregg, Highland Small Communities Housing Trust; Cllr Audrey Sinclair, The Highland Council; Prof Boyd Robertson, Principal, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig; John Swinney, Deputy First Minister; Angus MacDonald, James MacQueen Building Contractors; and Dr Donnie Munro, Development Director, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and R.HOUSE to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes in Kilbeg. The Rent to Buy Scheme 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 it has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period.
Working with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is an excellent example of how focused partnership working in smaller communities can create positive and significant impacts to address housing shortages in rural areas and also provide a stimulus to the local economy.”
Local construction firm, James MacQueen Builders Ltd. who work alongside Skye based architects Rural Design, has been awarded the contract and they are set to begin work on site shortly.
A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, a partnership between James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and Rural Design stated:
“R.HOUSE is 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 and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, providing much needed affordable housing as well as a supporting the local Gaelic culture.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“It is terrific news to hear that the building of these new homes will start soon at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This is another key step in the ongoing growth and development of the college and regeneration of the area. As well as the housing, these developments include a wide range of benefits for language and education and also for skills and employment.
I was very pleased to hear about the project at the college earlier this summer and I would like to commend staff and trustees at the college for their commitment and vision in bringing these plans to fruition.”
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.