As Communities Housing Trust nears a monumental business anniversary, we look back at a number of historic successes from the last decade that have cemented the strong foundations of our organisation today.
Nationwide Foundation set up their Empty Homes Fund in late 2013. You can get more of an up-to-date view in our fact sheet.
The Rent to Buy scheme, which launched in 2011 allowed people to rent a new home for 5 years whilst saving up for a deposit. In 2014, the initiative saw a significant boost of £3 million, and in it's time, provided a total of 63 homes. Read the fact sheet here.
In 2015, we were announced as one of the 10 finalists in the 2015 World Habitat Awards with our Rent to Buy Scheme named as one of the top 10 projects of its kind worldwide. Given this body celebrates many innovative and revolutionary housing ideas on a global scale, this remains one of our proudest accolades.
2016 saw the introduction of the Highland Self Build Fund, a much needed solution to the gap in the lending market at the time. The Highlands were exclusively chosen to pilot the scheme in its early stages but has since expanded to the whole of Scotland, and loans increased from £150,000 to £175,000.
Margaret Burgess, the Minister for Housing and Welfare, praised it for being a housing model which would allow people to put their own stamp on their abode.
“Self and custom build offers an important means of increasing housing supply while allowing customers input into the design of their new home."
The Rent to Buy Scheme had further endorsement in September, 2016 when it was one of four projects to be nominated for a Rural Innovators Award, run by Scottish Rural Action.
One of the premises of the Rural Housing Fund is the opportunity for communities to transform buildings into homes. A school house in Wester Ross, which had laid empty for 5 years, was renovated into 2 affordable flats in 2017. It was not only one of the original beneficiaries of the fund, but it was the first project to be completed with this aid, hence why it was such a highlight of 2017.
We recognised our business growth around this time, with the team growing from 3 to 11 full-time members.
2018 saw the launch of the Dr & Mrs J Steven Faulds Memorial Fund.
This was a breakthrough advancement in housing in instances where it was almost impossible for families to get support from a bank or building society to buy a building plot. Those eligible for this fund include people with a permanent connection to the local community (especially those in the Scottish Islands), those in remote rural locations with a population of less than 500 and those in insecure tenancies/unsuitable housing.
The fund is still open today and you can apply by contacting us.
In 2019, we presented some findings after undertaking a housing needs assessment study in Assynt, in the north-west Highlands. Now, momentum on this project is gathering again. We look forward to reporting on this project in the future, especially as it is a flagship community-led development for the area.
Aside from pushing on developing projects in spite of lockdown, 2020 saw our rebrand from Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to Communities Housing Trust. Having felt a spike in demand for our services around this time, we recognised that we needed to better reflect the reality of serving communities beyond the Highland region. With offices in Inverness, Oban and Perth, we were leading community housing at a national level, rather than just regionally.
In 2021, the Self Build Loan Fund faced an extension having seen that public interest in the fund rose by 153% over 2020. Additionally, in 2021, more funding was added to the pot as it surpassed the allocation of £5 million worth of loans.
"Self-build is sometimes the only option to stay in your own community, whether young or old, where housing is limited and developers won’t build"
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of Communities Housing Trust
“Self-provided housing can play an important role in supporting potentially fragile communities and smaller building firms, particularly in rural areas.
Housing Secretary Shona Robison
The Rothiemurchus housing development, which succeeded without any public subsidy, won the Rural Housing Award at the Scottish Land & Estates Helping It Happen Awards. The same project also saw success in the Chartered Institue of Housing (CIH) Scotland Housing Awards 2021 where it won the 'Excellence in Housing Innovation' category.
2022 saw great success in the Actercairn, Applecross and Staffin communities in particular.
Firstly, the Achtercairn regeneration project was shortlisted for the Scottish Civic Trust My Place Award. Not only this, but the project saw international recognition at the European Responsible Housing Awards (part of the International Social Housing Festival in Helsinki). Here, we won the 'More Than A Roof' category, which gives a nod to the range of positive social impacts the project has on the community.
This success can be attributed to one of the development's public buildings, which happened to be the first of Scotland's public buildings to be awarded the Passivhaus status. Additionally, the development as a whole is an exemplary model of a climate-friendly "20-Minute Neighbourhood" wherby key services and amenities are close to home.
All these achievements came in soon after the large-scale Gairloch development being shortlisted for best Regeneration Project of the UK-wide Inside Housing Development Awards 2021 and winning the 'Excellence in Regeneration' category at the Scottish Housing Awards 2021.
Staffin, a crofting community on the Isle of Skye, experienced many factors contributing to significant depopulation. Just one part of Communities Housing Trusts work here involved replacing an existing building (unfit for purpose) with a new health centre to be leased to NHS Highland. From a housing standpoint, the project was of benefit to a total of 20 residents.
Communities Housing Trust in Applecross moved residents into the first affordable homes built in the area in over 18 years.
2023 and beyond
The last few months have seen the publishing of case studies of some of the exciting community-led housing projects we've undertaken. That includes Colonsay, Tomintoul and Balmaha near Loch Lomond.
Just recently, we were delighted to hear of the funding announcement from the Scottish Government and the Nationwide Foundation of a 3 year funding package for both Communities Housing Trust and South of Scotland Community Housing. Through securing this funding, we can futher assist in providing early-stage support to a wider range of rural communities facing extreme housing pressures, and facilitate even more projects of the same calibre as the past 25 years.
Come and celebrate our 25th anniversary at our free event!
22nd September 2023 - Leonardo Hotel, Inverness
Check out the day's programme below:
Are you enthusiastic about self-buld/renovation projects?
16th September 2023 - Macdonald Aviemore Resort
At this free-to-attend event, you can attend seminars throughout the day, with topics ranging from converting heritage projects, investigating energy efficient heating and cooling systems and exploring integrating smart technology into your home.
It's a great opportunity to swap months of scouring the internet for face-to-face advice!
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.