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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.