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.
HSCHT’s AGM and Annual Conference is taking place in Inverness on Friday 8th September.
We are excited to announce that Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, will be our Keynote Speaker at the event. Many of our members are from communities in Kate’s constituency and we are delighted Kate has agreed to speak at our flagship event.
Please sign up for your place at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hscht-agm-annual-conference-tickets-35695244437
A tree-cutting team from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has been on hand to help a group of forestry trainees gain valuable skills for future employment.
Earlier this month, four trainees attended a one day Chipper Training course on Cawdor Estate, located between the mountain ranges of the Cairngorms and the sandy beaches of the Moray Firth. Using a chipper machine provided by SSEN, the trainees learned how to safely operate the specialist equipment using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), giving them valuable skills to place them in good stead for a future career in the industry.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) runs the Skills Development Programme for young people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training. The programme consists of a full-time college course, personal mentoring, work experience and a training allowance. 85% of HSCHT’s young people go on to further education, modern apprenticeships or full-time employment.
Nicola MacKenzie, Skills Development Programme Manager at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said: "The loan of the SSEN wood chipper and the assistance of staff for a one-day course on Cawdor Estate were essential in enabling four of our forestry trainees to gain their industry standard Operation and Maintenance accreditation, reinforcing safe working practice and placing them in a much better position to gain future employment within the industry.
“This fits very well with the practical work experience our trainees participate in throughout the year and is often key to gaining essential skills and entry into their chosen industry.”
Graham MacLennan, Team Manager, Tree Cutting North at SSEN added: “We were delighted to help The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust by providing a chipper and guidance from our Field Manager Roddy Ross to support four of their forestry trainees with their accreditation.
“We are always happy to help where we can, whether this is spending a day of our time through our ‘Be the Difference’ programme to give back to the community when they need our help, or by providing specialised equipment like we did for HSCHT. I hope the training was beneficial to the four trainees, and they manage to put their newly acquired skills into practice in the near future.”
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”.
A house that has lain empty for over 5 years in Achiltibuie has been transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by the Coigach Community Development Company and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust with support from The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation, The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Community ownership, through the transfer of assets, of a disused schoolhouse in the remote community of Achiltibuie, Coigach, Wester Ross has now been given a new lease of life. The Coigach Community Development Company is delighted that the renovation of the old schoolhouse is now complete, with the two newly created flats due for occupation in early March.
An Open Day event to welcome tenants to their new homes was held on Friday 3rd March 2017, attended by those involved in the redevelopment along with people from the village.
Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) project managed the development and is providing housing management services for the properties, which have been allocated to people in housing need.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of HSCHT explained:
“HSCHT is delighted that the schoolhouse redevelopment is now complete. By working closely with The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation and The Highland Council, this adds to the growing number of community-owned housing projects in the Highlands. The Coigach community will benefit greatly from two new fit-for-purpose affordable homes in Achiltibuie. The project demonstrates the great benefits derived from cooperation with the community and we hope to work with them on future projects to benefit Coigach.”
Award-winning David Somerville Architects has redesigned the property, improving the standards with increased insulation and a responsive heating system resulting in low running costs: “With so many ex public sector houses no longer in use throughout the Highlands this project shows how affordable and energy-efficient accommodation can be made available to young families in remote communities.” The renovation was carried out by Highland based contractors, Kinellan Building Ltd.
Included in the conversion was a complete internal and external redecoration, with completely new kitchens and bathrooms also being installed. Externally the overgrown garden has been landscaped to provide bin stores and a new pathway and steps leading up to the house. Windows and doors were refurbished, while new ones were installed where required.
Increasing the thermal mass of the property was important to the project. To do this, the conversion incorporated the raising of the floors to lay Kingspan insulation beneath, while also placing of 100mm mineral wool insulation in all walls between bedrooms and living rooms. Roof insulation was also increased, by laying 150mm thick earthwool insulation between ties, and 100mm thick over the rafters.
This, as well as the upgrading of services, wiring and lighting, as well as the introduction of new combined electric boiler and domestic hot water stores in each new flat, has created a more modern, much warmer and more energy efficient home.
The Scottish Government’s new Rural Housing Fund was instrumental in funding this renovation, which is the first project to be completed through this mechanism. The fund has proved popular with communities with aspirations to own their own homes and it complements other recent interventions from the Scottish Government, such as the Scottish Land Fund, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
“We recognise the challenges of developing affordable housing in remote rural areas and so I’m delighted that the Scottish Government was able to provide funding to this worthwhile project through the Rural Housing Fund. The successful conversion of a former schoolhouse into two homes for affordable rent will make a positive impact on this coastal community in northwestern Scotland.”
HSCHT received funding of £120,000 from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy to bring long-term empty properties back into use. This funding also contributed towards the completion of another property recently, Druim Garbh, owned by the Acharacle Community Company.
Sam Stewart, Head of Programmes at the Nationwide Foundation, says:
“It is unacceptable that there is a shortage of decent, affordable homes in the Scottish Highlands, while at the same time there are properties standing empty. Too often local people have no realistic housing options and are forced to move out of the area they were brought up in. We are delighted that our funding has contributed towards two great homes for the new tenants. The community-led housing model used at the schoolhouse by HSCHT offers rural communities a real way to keep local people living in their communities.”
Julia Campbell, Coigach Community Development Company said:
“We at CCDC are thrilled to see the lights back on Achiltibuie Schoolhouse and to see it lived in once again. Lack of housing is a big challenge in Coigach and has been cited again and again by the local community as top of their "to do" list in numerous surveys and consultations.
We are very grateful to our funders: Scottish Government's Rural Housing Fund, The Nationwide Foundation, and The Highland Council (who also transferred the house to the community at nominal cost as well as assisting with the development), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise who funded our legal fees and have provided ongoing support to CCDC as part of their Community Account Management programme. We'd also especially like to thank HSCHT who have supported us throughout the process and made it all possible.
The first tenants will move in soon and are both valuable members of our community with local family connections here and both bring extended economic benefit to the area through their employment. On a personal level, I am particularly happy to see the Schoolhouse back in action as it was my first home, and like many in the community I'm very fond of it. This has been a real community effort too: CCDC's board is made up of a hardy band of volunteers, and local folk have really pitched in to help and support the development.”
Lindsay Simpson, Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross - Development Manager at Highlands & Islands Enterprise said:
“Coigach Community Development Company is the anchor organisation for HIE’s Community Capacity Building Programme and we have been working intensively with them for a number of years.
CCDC’s Community Development Plan, written in early 2012, identified housing as one of the main priorities for action. The creation of these two housing units will go a long way in providing valuable affordable accommodation in an area where housing provision is scarce and expensive. This will encourage young families to remain in the area and could provide key-worker housing.
HIE is proud to support communities across the region not only realise their ownership aspirations but also, use this resource to benefit the local area”.
Cllr. Isabelle Campbell, The Highland Council said:
“I was delighted to attend The Open Day in Achiltibuie today to celebrate the completion of a joint venture of an empty school house transformed into two affordable homes. The funding package secured by The Highlands Small Communities Trust and the Coigach Community Development Company with support from The Scottish Government, The Nationwide Foundation, The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The Coigach Community Development Company have illustrated how community ownership through transfer of assets of a disused schoolhouse can produce two affordable homes in a rural community with housing need.
The development has been project managed by The Highlands Small Communities Trust. May I congratulate the Coigach Development Trust on their enterprise and vision for their community”.
Since the completion of the project, it has received recognition from Shelter Scotland.
Adam Lang, Head of Communications and Policy at Shelter Scotland, said:
“Through our management of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership we know that far too many private properties are lying empty while people wait years for affordable homes to rent.
The Achiltibuie project is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when a community is supported to bring an empty property back into use. It offers real hope to the many places across Scotland where people are forced to watch buildings decay when they could be transformed into much needed homes.”
Adam Lang added:
“Affordable housing is vital to the sustainability of communities. For places like Achiltibuie, community-driven schemes to bring empty homes back into use could play a vital role in meeting demand.”
On Friday the 24th of February, we will be at the Rural Housing Scotland Annual Conference 2017, held in Birnam Arts Centre.
We will be making a presentation on Self-Building and The Scottish Government's new p[ilot scheme - 'Highland Self Build Loan Fund'. We will also be running a workshop focusing on how the fund works.
We hope to see some of you there, and feel free to approach us with any questions you may have on the day.
More information can be found at ruralhousingscotland.org/home/conference, where you can also purchase tickets for the event.
We will also be live tweeting from the Conference, so be sure to follow us on @SelfBuildFund and @HSCHT.
Lochaber communities are benefitting from twenty new affordable homes due to collaboration between Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT).
After listening to the needs of local communities the new homes are located in Kilchoan, Lochyside (Fort William), Mallaig and Strontian.
This ambitious development programme forms part of an agreement between LHA and HSCHT to build 40 new homes per year. Development is currently on-going in several areas in Lochaber to invigorate the area by offering a diverse range of housing tenures to strengthen the communities.
LHA provides social rented homes and low-cost home ownership properties (LIFT), to complement HSCHT’s Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build options.
Blair Allan, Chief Executive of Lochaber Housing Association said: “Scottish Government financial support for increasing the number of new affordable homes throughout Scotland is at unprecedentedly high levels and we are committed to doing our utmost, in conjunction with the Highland Council, to take up all the available funding in Lochaber where, as everyone knows, the need for good quality truly affordable is so high. As many will be aware, the Association stopped developing new build properties some years back because grant levels and borrowing terms in the financial markets were so disadvantageous. Now, however, revised grant levels and better market conditions have enabled us to resurrect our new build programme and our development services partnership with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has been invaluable in enabling us to gear up again, not only to deliver our ambitious new build programme, but to provide a diversity of tenures that reflect local needs. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the Trust to deliver even more new affordable housing opportunities wherever the need exists in communities throughout Lochaber.”
Kilchoan has recently benefitted from three properties for social rent and there are ten properties at Lochyside, made up of eight for social rent and two through the Scottish Government’s LIFT scheme.
The Director of S & K MacDonald Homes Ltd. who built the properties at Kilchoan said that:
"S&K MacDonald Homes Ltd are delighted to be working with the HSCHT & LHA to deliver new homes throughout Lochaber. These projects have allowed us to increase our local work force and invest in additional plant, equipment & training. More importantly the release of a constant stream of projects let's us retain more apprentice joiners. We see the work we do for HSCHT as a win win for the area - creating homes and local jobs."
Quote from Campbell Joinery (Lochyside): “We were pleased to have been the principle Design & Build Contractor for the recently completed development at Lochyside, which involved the construction of 10 new homes. This enables local firms such as us to offer a continuation of long-term employment in the construction industry.”
In Mallaig, there is one Rent to Buy property. This two bedroom property is due for occupation next month.
A spokesperson from A.N Fraser Joinery & Building Contractor Ltd. said: “A.N Fraser Joinery specialise in the design & build of timber frame homes from start to completion. We were delighted to be given the opportunity to be involved in this worthwhile project in Mallaig with HSCHT, providing much needed affordable housing in the area.”
In Strontian six new homes have been recently completed alongside a serviced plot for self-build. To aid potential self-builders the Scottish Government has provided a £4m fund, The Highland Self-Build Loan Fund, where eligible applicants can borrow up to £175,000 to fund the initial stages of their build. http://www.hscht.co.uk/highland-self-build-loan-fund.html
Occupants are soon due to move into the properties built next to the High School in Strontian. This is the first stage of an inspiring wider development which is strongly supported by the Sunart community following a masterplanning exercise for the larger site. The development also includes Scotland’s first community owned primary school being driven forward by the Strontian Community School Building Group Ltd. and currently project managed by HSCHT. This is an excellent example of communities taking control of their own needs. The group currently has a live invitation to purchase shares to raise funds for the project.
The Sunart Community Council, of which Strontian is part, said that:
“The Sunart Community Council is pleased that the recent housing development in Strontian, on School Road, is now completed. This development was in conjunction with the Lochaber Housing Association and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust. There are six properties, and a self-build plot which is for sale. Three of the properties are for social rent with Lochaber Housing Association, and the other three being for Rent to Buy. The Sunart Community Council is also pleased to see that all of the properties have been allocated to people in need of housing in the local area.”
Local construction firm, James MacQueen Builders Ltd. who work alongside Skye based architects Rural Design, have recently completed the properties in Strontian. 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, providing much needed affordable housing on the first phase of development at Strontian.”
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with a range of experienced local contractors to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes throughout Lochaber in various housing tenures. The Rent to Buy Scheme is a low-cost home ownership scheme which 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.
Working with Lochaber Housing Association 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. The Highland Council and the Scottish Government’s continued support allows a diverse mix of housing tenures to be provided and also acts as a stimulus to the Highland economy.”
Minister for Housing Kevin Stewart said:
“I am delighted that the strong working relationship between Lochaber Housing Association and Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, along with their construction partners, has resulted in such positive outcomes. The Scottish Government encourages the use of different housing models and these practical examples of rural housing, backed by our affordable housing supply programme, low-cost home ownership scheme (LIFT), as well as our Highland Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build pilots, has given people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder.
“Last year we also launched of a £25 million Rural Housing Fund which will also provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes for Scotland in rural areas over the next three years by helping with the building of new homes and the refurbishment of existing buildings.”
In our first blog of the year, we take a look at some of the funding opportunities that are currently available to community-led housing projects. At the moment there are a number of great innovative funding mechanisms out there which HSCHT believe can really benefit communities around the country.
A) Private Finance
There are various proivate organisations out there - whether they be banks, energy companies, or other organisations, who are looking to invest in a community that they already operate within. These organisations have a selection of funding schemes available for communities to use in an attempt to improve life in the local area by developing sustainable projects.
Quite often to be able to successfully apply for finance from a private organisation you'll have to demonstrate that you're proposed development, whether it be new build or renovation, would indeed be a benefit to the community. One way this could be shown is by providing homes for key workers, or providing homes for young families who are trying to stay in/move back to the area. Such projects provide social and economic benefit to the community, by increasing the number of skilled people within an area, while also contributing to the school role and local businesses.
HSCHT have worked with such organisation in the past, and are happy to offer our advice. If you would like more information on some of the private finance routes available, please get in touch via email@example.com.
Another way to generate funding for a community-led project is to seek partners from within the community who stand to benefit from the increase in new housing. Quite often these partners could be local businesses looking for somewhere to house their essential staff. if this is the case, then it may be possible for them to contribute to the funding of the project.
Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, communities may partner with a local housing association. If a community group partnered with a Housing Association, this could perhaps provide management services, or they may act as a development partner, taking a considerable burden off the community group.
This is an area in which HSCHT has much experience in, having being able to assist in building partnerships in the past between local community organisations/trusts and businesses that operate within the local area. Most recently we have facilitated such a relationship on the Isle of Rum, which will hopefully provide additional housing units for the local community trust, as well as a company who are requiring homes for their employees on the island.
C) Public Funding
The Scottish Government has recently introduced several new funding schemes to assist in the development of affordable housing throughout the country. The Scottish Land Fund, The Rural Housing Fund, and The Empty Homes Fund are 3 such funds that can be utilised to great effect by rural communities seeking to develop their own housing units.
- Scottish Land Fund
The Scottish Land Fund supports both rural and urban communities to become more self-reliant and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and land assets.
Funded by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership by the Big Lottery Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Land Fund offers grants of up to £1 million to help communities take ownership of the land and the buildings that are important to the growth of their community. It also provides practical support to these communities, in an attempt to develop their ambitions into achievable projects.
The Scottish Land Fund is available to organisations in both urban and rural Scotland. As long as these are community-led, community controlled and have a defined geographic area.
HSCHT have also supported community groups in their applications to this fund. Including recently the purchase of land in Strontian by the Strontian Community School Building Ltd, who are embarking on building Scotland's first community owned Primary School. The plan is to convert this building into affordable housing in the future, should the Primary School move into the existing High School building. For more information on this project, see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-38303561
For more information on The Scottish Land Fund visit:
- Rural Housing Fund
The Rural housing Fund, which was only launched in 2016, is a £25million fund that will provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes in rural areas around Scotland.
The Rural Housing Fund will increase supply of long-term affordable housing to rural areas during the next three years, by assisting the building of new homes and refurbishment of existing buildings. These new homes will add to the Scottish Government’s commitment to build another 50,000 new homes throughout Scotland over the next five years.
The fund is open to a wide range of applicants, including long-established affordable housing providers, and also community-led organisations and private landowners, allowing them to take a more active role in meeting the housing needs of their local community.
In addition to providing support toward the capital costs of housing projects, the fund will offer much needed feasibility support to enable organisations to develop robust plans for their projects.
This is a fund that HSCHT have experience with, having assisted several community organisations with successfully applying for it. This has varied from giving initial advice, to undertaking the whole application process on behalf of the community group.
For more information on The Rural Housing Fund please visit:
- Empty Homes Fund (administered by Highland Council)
If a community group are planning on renovating an empty home in the local area, then The Scottish Government have said that they are keen to encourage the owners of such empty homes to return them to use as affordable housing. To kick-off empty homes work across Scotland, the Scottish Government has made up to £4 million available in the form of an Empty Homes Loan Fund. Having seen the pressures facing housing in rural areas, £2 million of the fund has being designated for refurbishments of empty homes in rural areas.
The fund aims to support a range of projects to bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing.
Of the £4 million that the Scottish Government has set aside for this fund, £400,000 has been given to the Highland Council to administer with the aim of renovating 30 units in the Highlands. The Council has matched the £400,000 grant from the Scottish Government’s Empty Homes Loan Fund with £400,000 from its Private Sector Housing Grant to promote the initiative.
All of the funding will be provided as loans, however interest will not apply. Successful applicants have to repay at least 60% of the funding by 2019/20 and are expected to repay the remaining portion of the loan by 2023/24 at the latest.
HSCHT have experience applying for this fund, as we have previously done so on behalf of Coigach Community Development Company for their renovation of the Achiltibuie School House. Laggan Community Trading Company have also received funding from Highland Council to renovate an empty property in Strathmashie. To learn more about this project, click HERE.
For more information on The Empty Homes Loan Fund please visit:
D) Community Share Options for Housing
The final funding mechanism for community led housing that will be examined in this blog is community shares.
When using this funding mechanism, members of the community are offered shares as a means of raising the level of funding needed for the development. There are restrictions on the withdrawals to ensure the safety of the fund gathered for the community organisation would be necessary to protect the stability of the organisation until other funds were built up from excess income in order to buy back the shares. A payment on the shares would be payable from rental revenues.
As a result of employing this form of funding; the organisation may have to make amendments to its current Memorandum and Articles of Association. This option also has the potential to enable the community to buy-in to the project as well as provide the required funds to pay for the project. By swapping the bank borrowing at both the development and after completion with a community share issue then the interest payable on loans is replaced by dividends payable to the shareholders.
To summarise, there are a number of different ways that communities can secure the funding needed in order to increase the housing provision within their area. Funding can be generated in many forms, from the likes of public funding, private funding, community shares, and partnering.
HSCHT is always trying to help communities determine which route works best for them. For further information, please feel free to get in touch to discuss with us on 01463 233549, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
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.
Our Rent to Buy Scheme is one of four projects who have been nominated for a Rural Innovators Award under the Housing category.
Our spokesperson Ronnie MacRae has said “We are delighted that our Rent to Buy Scheme has been nominated in the Rural Innovator Awards 2016. The main benefits of the scheme is that it is viable in many communities and it is based on loan funding rather than grant funding making it work in any economic climate. As a pioneer of innovative housing models this is one of the ways in which we can help and support families and our rural communities to thrive”.
The Rural Innovator Awards are run by Scottish Rural Action and seek to recognise and showcase some of the most innovative and effective ways in which rural challenges can be addressed. It will be awarded to a project, person or organisation who is improving life in rural communities by tackling one of the priority challenges.
Other projects nominated in this category include:
Scottish Rural Action National Coordinator Emma Cooper said “We are very excited to be able to start accepting votes for the Rural Innovators Awards. Some incredible and inspiring projects were nominated for the awards in this category and shortlisting was a challenging task. We would encourage people to have a look at the shortlisted projects on our website and choose the project they find most innovative and inspiring. The awards will be presented at the Scottish Rural Parliament in Brechin”
You can vote online at http://www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/get-involved/ria-2015-16/
Voting closes at midnight on the 18th September 2016.
Winners will receive a paid-for place at the Scottish Rural Parliament 2016 on 6-8th October 2016 taking place at Brechin Community Campus in Angus and will have the opportunity to present their project to delegates.
We will be holding this years AGM in the Town House, Inverness. The event, sponsored by Triodos Bank, will begin at 9.45am on Friday the 16th of September and will run until about 2.30pm. This years event focuses on community led initiatives, and will feature a number of presentations from the likes of HIE, Ekopia, Laggan Community Trading Company and others. We will also have exhibits from Triodos, Carbon Dynamic, HIE and Woodland Crofts. See the full programme below.
All welcome, please contact email@example.com or 01463 233549 to let us know you're coming.
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.”
Two new energy efficient single storey homes have been built for the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Rent to Buy Scheme at Reraig, Balmacara, Kyle of Lochalsh on land previously owned by the Kinlochshiel Shinty Club.
The Kinlochshiel Shinty Club approached the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust to explore the possibility of working together to procure a new state of the art shinty pitch by offering part of their site for affordable housing. Working in partnership with the local club has resulted in mutual benefits to the club and to the local community by improving the facilities and helping to address housing need locally. Due to the popularity of the scheme, a third home has been built at “Grant Road” and an open day to celebrate its completion is being held on 27th July.
James MacQueen Builders Ltd. has previously built seven R.HOUSE’s over two phases for the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust at Auldearn as part of a larger development including private homes at Montrose Woods. The homes have received excellent feedback on the extremely low running costs experienced by the tenants, which makes the homes more affordable to live in, as well as, to rent and then purchase.
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“Once again we are delighted to be working with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and R.HOUSE to provide energy efficient, lower-cost homes in Balmacara. The Rent to Buy Scheme provides households with the opportunity to rent and the 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 loan funding secured for around 60 homes, spread throughout Highland communities over a 3 year period.
This development is an excellent example of how dedicated partnership working in smaller communities can have a significant impact. The Kinlochshiel Shinty Club has been an excellent partner to work with and we wish them every success with their new pitch and their shinty fixtures”.
Keith Loades on behalf of The Shinty Club stated:
“We welcome the great news that the new houses are about to be tenanted. It was a pleasure to be able to work with Highland Communities Small Housing Trust and James MacQueen and it is pleasing to note that all parties have secured their own objectives whilst at the same time providing much needed housing and an excellent sporting facility which will benefit the wider community for years to come”.
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 and Kinlochshiel Shinty Club, providing much needed affordable housing as well as a new sporting facility that will benefit the community for generations. We wish them every success for the future”.
Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP:
“I am delighted to see that the Rent to Buy Scheme has given people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder. Over the past 3 years, the Scottish Government has invested over £7 million to deliver new Rent to Buy homes.
We have now launched a £25 million Rural Housing Fund for Scotland which will provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes in rural areas over the next three years by helping with the building of new homes and the refurbishment of existing buildings.”
For more details, call R.House on 01478 612 899; the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust on 01463 233 549 or Kinlochshiel Shinty Club on firstname.lastname@example.org
In her Priorities for Government speech on 25 May 2016, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would undertake an ‘end-to-end’ review of enterprise and skills services. This Call for Evidence invites you to contribute your views so Scottish Government can ensure that they and all their public agencies are delivering the joined-up support that our young people, universities, colleges and businesses need.
Scottish Government are asking for your views and opinions of where the system may need improving in niche areas as well as your view of the system as whole. Any recommendations to Ministers will be based on the evidence that is gathered through this call and other evidence gathering. Therefore not only are your views, but potential solutions, welcomed as part of this evidence based change.
To express your views, please go to - https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/enterpris…/call-for-evidence.
An empty schoolhouse in Achiltibuie will be transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and the Coigach Community Development Company with support from The Scottish Government, The Nationwide Foundation and The Highland Council.
Community ownership of a disused schoolhouse in the remote community of Achiltibuie, Coigach, Wester Ross is to be given a new lease of life. The Coigach Community Development Company is delighted to see that the renovation of the old schoolhouse will now take place. Construction is expected to begin shortly, with the homes due for occupation by new tenants later this year.
Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) will oversee the development and the future housing management of the properties, which will be made available to people in housing need once the renovation is completed.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of HSCHT explained “HSCHT is delighted to be working with The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation and The Highland Council, to bring about one of the many pipeline community-owned housing projects in the Highlands. The Coigach Community Development Company will benefit greatly from two new fit-for-purpose affordable homes in Achiltibuie. The project demonstrates the great benefits derived from cooperation with the community and the wider partnership of those involved.”
Award-winning David Somerville Architects has redesigned the property, improving the standards with increased insulation and a responsive heating system resulting in low running costs: “Transforming the property into two flats instead of one large dwelling will maximize the potential to provide local housing for key workers and local people”.
The Scottish Government’s new Rural Housing Fund is instrumental in funding this Achiltibuie renovation. The fund is already popular with communities with aspirations to own their own homes and it complements other recent interventions from the Scottish Government, such as the Scottish Land Fund, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We recognise the challenges of developing affordable housing in remote rural areas and so I’m delighted that the Scottish Government is able to provide funding to this worthwhile project through the Rural Housing Fund. This will contribute to the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 new homes across Scotland over the next five years”.
HSCHT received funding of £120,000 from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy. This funding also contributed towards the completion of another property last year, Druim Garbh, owned by the Acharacle Community Company.
Sam Stewart, Head of Programmes at the Nationwide Foundation, says: “A lack of decent affordable housing in very rural areas is highly detrimental; however community-led housing initiatives - such as this one at Achiltibuie - ensure that the right sort of affordable homes are created to suit the specific housing needs of people in the local community.”
The Coigach Community Development Company said: “This is really good news for Coigach. This funding means work can now start on the old Achiltibuie Schoolhouse and we'll soon have two new flats to rent in the community. Lack of affordable housing is a real problem here and even just two new households will make a big difference for the better. It’s a really positive step and we are delighted to be working with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust on this project and grateful to our funders who are making it all possible”.
- Julia Campbell, Local Development Officer.
Last week we spoke with The Self Build Portal about the new Scottish Government fund - The Highland Self Build Loan Fund. Here is excerpt from the article:
"Earlier this year a new Scottish Government Loan Fund, overseen by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT), was introduced to help self builders in the Highlands to complete their projects as well as boost the number of new homes in the area.
The £4million revolving fund will enable families and individuals to borrow up to £150,000 in stage payments, in a similar manner to a self build mortgage - albeit with different conditions attached. The Self Build Portal talks to Michael Chisholm from HSCHT to find out more about the fund..."
To continue reading the article and see our full interview with The Self Build Portal, please go to www.selfbuildportal.org.uk/latest-news/487-focus-on-the-highland-self-build-loan-fund
For more information on the Highland Self Build Loan Fund - get in touch via email@example.com, or phone us on 01463 233 549.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust is very excited to announce the launch of the Highland Self Build Loan Fund. It is a new Scottish Government fund, to be administered by HSCHT.
It has been recognised that there was a gap in the lending market, to provide funding for self builders, prior to mortgage facilities being available. This is where the Highland Self Build Loan Fund aims to help. The fund allows HSCHT acting as agent to the Scottish Government to provide a revolving fund to self builders throughout the Highlands.
The Highlands were chosen by the Scottish Government for this two year pilot scheme, after it was noted that the area has a history of self and custom builds. Keeping the allocation of the fund specifically to the Highland region will assist with monitoring and evaluation of the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, and give an indication to the Scottish Government of how successful the pilot is.
Over recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that there is a gap in the market regarding the funding of self build projects. That is demonstrated by the fact there has been a massive reduction in build projects in general throughout the region since 2007. According to statistics from the Highland Council’s planning department, in 2007/08 there were 1845 completed house builds. In 2012/13 this had dropped to only 833. This number has levelled off the past couple of years, with 984 new builds being constructed in 2014, and 974 in 2015. It is widely thought that a large majority of this decrease is down to the decline of self build and custom build projects in the Highlands.
HSCHT believes the main reason for the huge reduction in self build projects throughout the region is the difficulty now being encountered by applicants in securing mortgage finance to cover the period up and until a property is complete. As a result, mainstream “high street” mortgage is currently difficult to secure, if not impossible.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund aims to generate growth in this “self build” sector again, and provide financial assistance to individuals and families who have in recent years been unable to progress with their self build projects.
Over the last few years the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has had many communities, community groups and individuals contact them seeking assistance. HSCHT has been restricted in its ability to help them due to the fact that the financial market is not providing the required lending in the Highlands of Scotland. For this reason we are very excited to finally be able to help people around the Highlands, who have long desired to build their own homes.
HSCHT will keeping a database of all the people expressing interest in the fund, in hope that this will prove to lenders that there is a high demand, and that it is indeed possible to finance these type of projects.
This year’s Rural Housing Scotland Conference, was held at Birnam Arts & Conference Centre on Friday the 26th of February 2016. The conference examined affordable housing in rural Scotland, with the main speaker – Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing & Welfare, discussing the new Rural Housing Fund, the Scottish Government’s proposals for affordable housing, the impact on the Land Reform Bill on rural housing opportunities, and community empowerment. On top of this, this is where Margaret Burgess also announced the Highland Self Build Loan Fund.
HOW IT WORKS
£4 million is available in total to provide to individuals and families throughout the Highlands over the next couple of years. This is a revolving fund, so as some projects are completed and the loan provided to them is paid back, we will then be able to use this finance to assist another applicant. Through doing this, we hope to help as many people as possible to build their own homes.
The funding will be available from the start of the new financial year (April 2016) and we will be able to confirm loan agreements over the 24 months that follow.
The analysis of the pilot will be used to inform future policy for self build support in Scotland, and to provide evidence of demand to “high street” lenders.
The new fund will allow applicants to borrow up to £150,000, to help them reach build completion. The loan is then repaid when the applicant is able to access a traditional mortgage.
The HSBLF can help a wide range of people who are considering a self build project for their primary residence. Those who own or part-own a home can apply although they need to sell their interest in that property.
In addition, the HSBLF applicants will be prioritised in the following order:
1) Applicants with all necessary titles, permissions, warrants and other documentation requested during the application process.
2) Applicants with shorter build programmes. This is to allow us to provide more funding for a greater number of projects – allocating funding to a larger number of applicants between April 2016 and April 2018.
3) Applicants with greater housing need.
The agent (HSCHT) will assess the project costs and compare this with the applicant’s contribution. If there is a shortfall in cash flow to reach completion stage (where mortgage funds become available), this will be the basis of how the HSBLF amount is calculated.
The duration of the fund being available to each applicant will depend on their build schedule. This will be decided before a formal offer is made. The loan offered to the applicant can be drawn down over the course of the project build – at stages previously agreed during the application stage.
While the launch of the Highland Self Build loan Fund is great news to those who have been struggle to achieve financial assistance to build their own homes over recent years. It also brings a number of wider benefits.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund will allow development to occur across the Highlands, including in smaller rural communities, where housing is sparse. This will help meet the housing needs of the community, and will therefore prevent outward migration, especially of young people unable to access secure and affordable housing in their community. The supply of affordable housing to smaller communities is the basis of a massive amount of the work The Highlands Small Communities Housing trust undertakes. A large benefit in the provision of new housing to rural areas, is that is allows families and individuals with desirable skills to stay within the area.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund also provides opportunities for local contractors who rely heavily on self build in rural areas. Many self and custom builds make use of local tradesmen, reducing their travel, costs and carbon emissions.
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 should help these people finally realise their dream, and allow them to move into more comfortable surroundings once they have eventually completed their build.
CEO of HSCHT, Ronnie MacRae has said:
“We are excited to see the launch of The Scottish Government’s Highland Self Build Loan Fund and we are delighted to be administering it. We anticipate that it could assist many Highland households to build their own homes. We welcome the new initiatives provided by The Scottish Government and it is an exciting time for housing options in the North.”
If you are interested in hearing more about the Highland Self Build Loan please contact us on:
01463 233548, or at
A brochure and application pack can also be downloaded from HERE.
Follow us on Twitter - @SelfBuildFund.
We are very excited to announce the official launch of the Highland Self Build Loan Fund. A new Scottish Government fund, to be administered by HSCHT.
Margaret Burgess MSP announced the £4 million fund on 26th of February at this years Rural Housing Scotland Conference.
The HSBLF has come about after it was recognised that there was a gap in the lending market, to provide funding for self builders, prior to mortgage facilities being available. The fund allows HSCHT acting as agent to the Scottish Government to provide a revolving fund to help self builders.
The new fund will allow individuals and families to borrow up to £150,000, to help them reach build completion. The loan is then repaid when the applicant is able to access a traditional mortgage.
We are now taking applications. For more information, or to download a brochure or application form, please click HERE.
For more information, please get in touch on 01463 233 548, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have been announced as one of 10 finalists in this years World Habitat Awards!
Our Rent To Buy Scheme has been named as one of the top 10 projects worldwide, as organisations and projects around the world were nominated.
The World Habitat Awards were established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation as part of its contribution to the United Nations International Year of Shelter for the Homeless.
Two awards are given annually to projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems.
For more information on the award, go to www.worldhabitatawards.org
And for more information on our Rent To Buy Scheme, as well as as all other finalists from this year and previous years, go to
Following on from our last two blogs, which focussed on the background of our Empty Homes project in Acharacle, funded by the Nationwide Foundation and our Open Day that we held on 15th July, this blog now goes on to discuss in further detail the work that was carried out during the renovation.
Built around 1976, the Druim Garbh was once a great family home, which has been left to deteriorate over the past several years. This has resulted in a number of the building elements not being up to the standard they once were.
The contractor S & K MacDonald Homes has undertaken a general renovation throughout the property, upgrading everything from the energy efficiency to the exterior aesthetic.
Included in this work is an upgrade to the heating system, a new kitchen, increased external envelope insulation, remedial works to chimney, general re-decoration, replacement of windows, and a completely new roofing material.
All windows have been replaced with high performance uPVC, double-glazed, casement windows, which are much more energy efficient than the previous windows, helping to reduce the amount of heat lost from inside the house. The contactor also taped and filled new plasterboard ingoes and soffits, incorporating new sills. All internal finishes have been tended to throughout the property. New pre-cast concrete sills were also put in place externally, which also included insulated damp proof course and drip to the underside of the sill. All timber lintels throughout the property were also re-painted.
While all internal doors were re-used, after being re-painted, new external uPVC doors have replaced the front door, as well as the new side door emerging from the kitchen/utility area onto the new timber ramp. All new doors and windows throughout the property now conform to ‘Secure by Design’ protocol. (http://www.securedbydesign.com/pdfs/SBDNewHomes2014.pdf)
The roof has perhaps been the most dramatic change, and noticed immediately even from a distance. Completely gone are the old crumbling and moss covered roof tiles, in favour of a brand new corrugated steel sheet roof. The new roofing material is AS13/3 0.7mm plastisol sheeting in black.
The original chipboard was home to mould, and has resulted in a full replacement of the roof membrane and all previous sarking with 22mm sarking timber. All roof trusses were assessed and attended to where necessary. Internally the insulation material in the loft and roof has been increased dramatically. I will go into further detail on this later on in the blog.
Rainwater and Fascia’s
During the renovation, all failed areas of fascia’s and soffit boards were replaced and painted with a new black finish, creating a striking new external aesthetic.
The gutters and downpipes were also replaced with black low-maintenance metal ones.
The main bathroom was fully re-furbished, with new WC, sink, and bath with shower head and curtain. On top of this there is also the new window, internal decoration and lighting that has been carried out throughout the property.
The smaller second bathroom adjacent to the third bedroom in the extended part of the house has also been re-decorated. While the old shower has been removed to create more space in the room, a new WC and sink has been installed.
All services were checked during the renovation process. Re-wiring of the property took place, along with the upgrading of the fuse box. New lighting was fitted throughout, ensuring that all light bulbs were low energy.
As well as the electrics, stop clocks, pipework, TV aerial, BT line and associated internal sockets were also assessed. An ionising smoke detector was also provided adjacent to the bathroom, an optical smoke detector in the living room and a heat detector in the kitchen.
Before the renovation took place, the property was heated by an old oil system, with an oil storage tank located at the west gable of the house. It was deemed unsuitable to re-use the existing system, as it would not provide the best environmental or economic benefit. For this reason, the contractor removed the existing oil system and storage tank, as well as disconnecting the oil boiler, in favour of installing a new wood-burning stove.
This new wood burning stove is a Morsø Squirrel 1412, and has a firebox which is fitted with a tertiary air chamber supplying additional combustion air directly above the flame. This additional air ensures secondary combustion of any smoke and gases giving maximum efficiency. This is extremely important to the overall environmental impact of the project, as it means there is drastically less CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. The newly renovated home is now considerably more energy efficient than it was with the previous oil system, and has a much smaller impact on the environment. Despite the compact design, the stove has a powerful 5kw output, ensuring large amounts of heat are generated. It is also equipped with a riddling grate and ash pan, allowing easy cleaning and ash removal.
The flue of the stove is kept away from any combustible material. While still making use of the existing chimney, a new rear entry flue with two 135 degree bends has been installed. The new flue is just under 5.2 metres in length from chimney pot to the hearth base.
A new stone hearth of similar dimensions to the previous concrete hearth with superficial marble has been put in place, and the inset walls have been re-lined.
The chimneys structure and leadwork were also assessed and repaired where necessary.
As well as the wood burning stove, a new Quantum heating system has also been introduced into the property. These electric space heaters use low-cost, off-peak energy, making it the most economical electric heating system on the market today. Quantum stores energy up during periods of low demand, turning it into efficient heat only when needed.
All other radiators that have been flushed, re-used and cleaned. Water is heated by electric immersion.
Improving the overall insulation throughout the property was one of the upgrades that was most important to the project.
The contractor used a large amount of Rockwool Insulation material to drastically improve the thermal envelope of the house.
Rockwool provided 200m2 of 150mm thick loft roll insulation to go towards improving the insulation within the loft space, ensuring that we keep the amount of heat lost through the roof of the house to a minimum. A vast majority of a buildings heat is lost through the roof of the property, and the previously uninsulated loft space of Druim Garbh meant that should a family have moved into the property, not only would any heat generated easily lost, but the price of heating the property would have been extremely high.
The project also included a full pallet of Rockwools top of the range Flexi insulation slab to be used in the external walls of the property.
Rockwool Flexi® is a unique, flexi-edged insulation product, specifically developed using patented technology for a fast and easy, perfect friction fit between timber and metal frame systems.
Flexi® slabs ensure essential tight fitting for thermal and acoustic integrity between frames in walls, partitions, floors and roofs, without the need for cutting or waste. Made from renewable volcanic rock, they are extremely fire resistant and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a building.
Advantages of such form of insulation:
Outstanding thermal, acoustic and fire properties.
Flexi® edge offers accurate fit to all widths.
Multi-application; fits all typical metal and timber stud spacing.
Wide range of thicknesses.
Easy to handle and install without gaps.
Fire classification A1.
Can be used as a full fill solution in timber frame party walls to achieve zero effective U-value within SAP 2012.
Made from a renewable and plentiful naturally occurring resource, Rockwool insulation saves fuel costs and energy in use and relies on trapped air for its thermal properties.
ROCKWOOL insulation does not contain (and has never contained) gases that have ozone depletion potential (ODP) or global warming potential (GWP).
As an environmentally conscious company, ROCKWOOL promotes the sustainable production and use of insulation and is committed to a continuous process of environmental improvement.
All ROCKWOOL products provide outstanding thermal protection as well as four added benefits:
Fire resistance, Acoustic comfort, Sustainable Materials and Durability.
The insulation of the buildings external envelop was upgraded to meet U-value 0.22 W/m2K. All internal partitions were stripped back to first stud to allow the installation of the internal-face insulation to all external walls.
Battens fixed to joists beneath flooring to allow for rigid insulation to be suspended under the suspended floor.
Loft roll insulation laid between joists to same depth before another layer was cross-laid over. The aim was to increase the thermal properties of the loft to meet a U-value of 0.18 W/m2K.
Structural and External Works
A lot of external works were carried out during the renovation, including much landscaping.
The front door external step was refurbished, with a new handrail being installed. The garden was tidied, which included the removal of the existing oil tank, and a new turning head which allowed for parking was formed at the front of the house, using spoil from the levelling of the roadway up to the house, and masonry from the demolition of the old porch and the stripping of the old roof tiles.
The whole of the exterior of the property has been painted in monochrome colours, and modernises and revives the previously derelict and tired looking home.
At the rear of the house, the stone steps were refurbished, and a fence complete with gate was erected around the outdoor patio area. The old cellar door at the rear of the house was also refurbished.
A major structural alteration of the property was the demolition of the old existing porch, creating a new entrance to the property directly into the kitchen/utility area, with a brand new decking complete with ramp leading up to it from the newly landscaped driveway at the front of the house.
The whole kitchen was renovated and re-arranged. The main kitchen area is now adjacent to the living room, where the dining area once was, furthest from the entrance door. Further units line the external wall as you enter from the new side entrance. Completely new units and worktops were installed, including a hob and oven, and utilities.
On top of the vast amount of structural renovation, upgrading of thermal properties and installation of energy efficient heating systems, the house has also had a total makeover through re-decoration. Not only is the house almost unrecognisable from the outside, but the whole of the homes interior, including walls, timber profiles and ceilings have been re-painted in neutral colours.
Throughout the project, regular visits were made by HSCHT to Druim Garbh in order to assess how the renovation was progressing. The project took approximately 16 weeks to complete, and was completed around the estimated completion date. The whole project ran very smoothly, with S & K Macdonald Homes doing an excellent job on the renovation. Main contractor Kenneth Macdonald gave frequent updates to HSCHT on the progress of the work, often sending in photographic evidence to show further exactly how far along the project was. Stage payments were used which further allowed us to monitor and keep track of how the project was going, contributing to the successful renovation process.
During the process of the renovation, we came across one issue which was soon rectified. As the work began on site it was noted that there was a problem with the wall construction and the extension which was constructed a number of years later that houses the 3rd bedroom, WC and the old kitchen. S & K Macdonald Homes approached structural engineering firm Alexander Scott Design to inspect the construction of this wall, and they came back with some findings and recommendations which were then added to the contract to be undertaken by the contractor during the renovation of Druim Garbh. The extension was effectively built in a flat roofed single skin construction garage unit. The flat roof was later altered with rafters to make a pitched roof – this was sub-standard, with the rafter ends not even bearing onto the masonry wall – an issue which S & K MacDonald homes then went on to rectify during renovation. The existing 2×2 drylining kit was also not serving any structural purpose as it was free standing. If this was not dealt with, there would be the worry that in the future the extension could fail. In order to attain more structural stability, a new structural timber framed inner leaf similar to that of the main house, tied to the outer masonry wall and well connected to the main building at floor and roof levels was put in place, while galvanised steel restraint straps to the gable at ceiling level were also introduced.
Overall this project, in conjunction with Acharacle Community Company and funded by The Nationwide Foundation, has been a great success. The contractor has been able to completely renovate an abandoned house into a modern and comfortable family home for the local rural community.
Should you have any questions regarding the renovation of this project, please get in touch via email at email@example.com.
For more information on The Nationwide Foundation, or the other Empty Homes projects they fund, please visit. http://www.nationwidefoundation.org.uk/emptyproperties.asp
On Wednesday the 15th of July, we held an Open Day in Acharacle to mark the completion of our newly renovated property – Druim Garbh.
The sun was out for what proved to be a great day over on the rural west coast village, with many different people attending the event.
This blog focusses on celebrating the achievement of everyone involved, as it really showcases all that was achieved over the past several months.
Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, the previously neglected property, which has been sitting empty for the past 6 years, is now set to act as a great new home for people from the area. The new tenants work nearby, but had to live with family due to a lack of housing provision within the area. In rural communities around the Highlands such as Acharacle, people are increasingly being forced to leave their families, jobs and friends behind in search of a suitable home. This means that when funding is available from schemes such as the Nationwide Foundation’s empty homes programme, it allows us to provide a new affordable home to the area, and generate a huge community benefit.
It was a very successful day to round up a successful project, with Bill Hall, Chair of The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust saying a few words to welcome everyone to the new home, acknowledge its completion and endorse the use of a new housing model in the Highlands.
HSCHT are privileged to be the only organisation in Scotland to receive funding from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy, which has invested over £750,000 into empty homes projects across the UK. This funding, a combination of grant and loan, has given HSCHT the means to renovate two Highland properties and plans are well underway to refurbish the second community owned property which is located further north in Achiltibuie. Druim Garbh is the first of these properties which we are working together to renovate into new affordable homes for people in housing need, and has allowed us to gain experience of the challenges inherent in bringing empty properties back into use and of providing a new, long lease housing model for empty homes.
The new property has been fully renovated inside and out. Not only is there a drastic change to the external appearance of the property, but it has also now has a brand new kitchen and bathroom, along with a completely new heating system to boost the energy efficiency of the home.
The use of a local contractor (S & K MacDonald Homes) and providing an apprenticeship training opportunity was vital to the success of the project. The contractor, his local joiner and a 16-year old school leaver, who was a trainee on the project, also came along for the event. It was great to have all of those who had worked hard on renovating the house over the previous months in attendance. The trainee’s employment was a condition HSCHT’s contract with the contractor, who was happy to accommodate him.
HSCHT project manager Fraser Cardow said: “The contractors here have been hugely helpful in trialing this new approach. We hope to be able to attach an apprentice to every future development and this pilot has worked very well. This lad has been able to work as part of the team on this renovation and has been getting great experience on other jobs too. Getting these new skills will help to strengthen the whole community by growing the pool of local tradesmen”.
Contractor Kenneth MacDonald said: “We’re not a huge firm but taking another apprentice is entirely positive. Getting new blood in lifts everyone’s spirits, and local people appreciate the effort we put in with youngsters. It’s also important because we need to build a local base of skilled tradesmen so that we can tackle jobs on the west coast without the costs of having to bring in people from hours away. It’s important that the boys have a chance to work instead of sit in a van. We’re training a workforce for the future.”
The Acharacle Community Company, who own the property were a great help throughout the process, with members also coming along on the day to celebrate the achievement.
They said: “We are delighted to see the renovation work at the bungalow completed to such a high standard and very pleased to be offering this accommodation back into the community for low cost rental. Many thanks to the Highlands Small Community Housing Trust for all their help and support in making this happen.”
HSCHT are very proud to have had facilitated this project from start to finish, and are incredibly happy to say that new tenants should be moving into the property within the coming week.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust explained that“HSCHT is delighted to see the refurbishment of Druim Garbh complete. The key feature to the success of the project has been the superb co-operation with the community and the wider partnership of those involved. This project has brought together a welcome and innovative funding stream from the Nationwide Foundation and our well established contacts with the Acharacle community, resulting in a desirable home being available at an affordable rent for people in Acharacle.
HSCHT want to thank the local construction firm, S & K MacDonald Homes, for their hard work and flexibility in carrying out the renovation to such a high standard and providing an energy efficient home. They have given it, literally, a new lease of life”.
Keep a look out for another upcoming blog discussing our Empty Homes renovation project, where I discuss in further detail the construction work that was carried out throughout the property, and how it was achieved. It will also feature before and after photographs from each of the renovated rooms.
If you have any questions about our Empty Homes project, or any of our other projects, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Earlier this month HSCHT attended the Social Enterprise Summit at the Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness. The day was a great success, with a big turn out from representatives from social enterprises of various backgrounds. There was also a variety of speakers throughout the day.
Below Morven Taylor discusses the event, and some opinions on the topic of social enterprise.
For more information on the Social Enterprise Summit – Please go to http://www.socialenterprisesummit.org.uk
Social Enterprise must move on from grant funding model
One of the common causes we found when talking with other organisations at the recent Social Enterprise Summit was the need to establish a sustainable business model.
Like The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, many groups we talked to had been set up thanks to grant funding, and in many cases have received further grants to keep going. But the whole idea of social enterprise is that it works as a business model, not because it wants to make a profit but because every group wants to ensure its continued, independent existence.
Everyone at the summit had a cause they are passionate about, something they work towards every day because they believe it provides an important benefit to others in the community. In our case, that is the provision of high quality, warm, suitable housing for those that live and work in small Highland communities.
Even without companies or private sellers and landlords trying to make a profit, housing is an expensive business, so there are few opportunities for us to make a surplus without impacting on the very people we want to help. That’s why we are increasingly thinking of secondary businesses we can set up that will turn a bit more of a surplus, while still helping to work towards our core cause.
This was a popular approach among the other social enterprises we met in Inverness at the summit, and we have picked up many ideas and sources of inspiration. One of the best thing about these offshoot businesses is that they often cater to social causes that other third sector organisations also subscribe too, meaning that links can be forged and we can keep money within the social enterprise family by buying services and even goods from each other. This helps us all get on a more sustainable path, and at the same time expands the range of services being offered here in the Highlands and Islands.
We at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust are used to focusing on sustainability in the homes we build or help others to build, but it is equally important to ensure that our organisational model means we will still be here to help the next generation find a suitable Highland home, and the one after that too.
On Tuesday 9th June 2015, we held an Open Day, to mark the opening of our newly completed Invergarry project. It was attended by those who helped to make their dream become a reality along with family members of the new tenants, friends and some people from the local village.
The couple moving into the home, have lived in the area for 16 years, and have brought up their two children there. The wife of the couple suffers from multiple sclerosis which has resulted in her requiring a wheelchair. This has proved very difficult in there current property – which was not wheelchair friendly at all, including elements such as stairs.
They contacted HSCHT to find a solution to their housing issues due to their existing home being difficult to adapt to suit Carol’s health needs. . A self-build project was considered but this option proved to be difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons. Still wanting to assist the family to find a solution, in 2013, HSCHT was awarded loan funding from the Scottish Government to provide homes through a Rent to Buy Scheme. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly, allowing the design of the new build home for low cost home ownership to be tailored specifically for the couple.
The Rent To Buy scheme has proved to be a very successful project for both HSCHT and the Scottish Government. Not only have they managed to provide affordable housing solutions to families and communities around the Highlands, but in this particular case, they have managed to make a couples life so much easier.
Unable to find alternative suitable housing in the area, should this project not have gone ahead, the couple were facing the reality that they may have to move away from the community after 16 years. Not only are they a big part of their community, but the prospect of a life altering move away would have provided them both with a lot of unnecessary stress.
The new house was built by local joinery and construction firm – A&N Fraser, who did a great job on the project and also attended the Open Day. Within the house design is a number of features ad design choices which make the day to day life of the couple so much easier. Through the Rent To Buy Scheme, a brand new affordable home is being provided to this couple, that not only allows them to remain within their community, but was also designed to be tailor-built to suit their particular needs, including an low windows, level access to the garden and into the house via a car port, an en-site wetroom and wide hallways. The circulation of the property remains fluid and flexible, while incorporating a number of doorways between the rooms.
Tuesday itself was a great day. Tying in with the couples Anniversary, they were given a set of keys to their new property. Many people from the community turned up for the Open Day marking the completion of the home, as well as others involved in the project such as representatives from the Scottish Government, with Mairi Ross speaking at the event.
The couple were extremely happy with their new home, with Carol saying:
“I’m so excited to finally be getting the house we’ve waited so long for. The fact that we got the keys on our anniversary made it even more special, it’s just the best present ever. When ou’re disabed, everything has to be done differently and even things like moving from my wheelchair to the stairlift was becoming too hard. I’ve been telling everyone about this new house so I can’t wait to move in now”
This project is just another example of the varying ways HSCHT try to help people in rural communities with their housing problems. We have known the couple for a few years now while trying to help them with their situation through various means, and it is amazing to finally be able to provide them with a home which suits their needs, while also allowing them to remain within their community.
If you have any questions regarding the Rent To Buy Scheme, or any of the other work that HSCHT do, please feel free to get in touch. Either by calling us on 01463 233549, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming Blogs To Look Out For –
Renovation of Acharacle Community Property | The Nationwide Foundation Empty Homes Fund
This blog will feature a wide variety of HSCHT’s developments and types of projects located throughout the Scottish Highlands. It will also include the latest news and updates regarding the trust.