The completion of a home in Flodigarry, in Staffin on the Isle of Skye, marks the 50th home to be delivered by The Highland Small Communities Housing Trust’s (HSCHT) Rent to Buy scheme.
Utilising loan funding from the Scottish Government, the innovative scheme has provided affordable homes for rent then purchase in more than 20 Highland communities since it was launched in 2013. It has received recognition by the World Habitat Awards in 2015 as a finalist in the competition.
Providing a stimulus to rural economies was a significant driver for the launch of the Rent to Buy Scheme, coupled with the requirement to provide a solution to the challenging mortgage lending market. The requirement for significant deposits to purchase a property was recognised as a major hurdle to home ownership, so Rent to Buy occupants are assisted after the initial rental period with a loyalty cash-back sum to help them to purchase their home.
Several homes have been completed to address specific householder’s needs including a property in Invergarry and one in Auldearn. The 50 properties are widely spread throughout the Highlands and in many locations where mainstream housing options would be unlikely to be provided such as Acharacle, Shieldaig and Balmacara. Several developments are planned in 2017/18 to bring the same benefits to more communities.
Flodigarry is a crofting township in the north-east of Skye and famous for once being the home of Flora MacDonald, who famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture. HSCHT invited the local community to suggest a new name for the house, which is near Dun Flodigarry Hostel and Flodigarry Hotel. Several suggestions were made, most of them in Gaelic, and Flodigarry’s oldest resident, Lena Nicolson, picked “Buailtean Gorma” as her preferred choice. It refers to a site nearby.
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with the Scottish Government and a range of experienced local contractors to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes throughout the Highlands. By recognizing that a wide range of housing tenures are required in rural areas, one of which, the Rent to Buy Scheme enables access to home ownership and it provides households with the opportunity to rent and then purchase their homes with the aid of a loyalty cash-back amount for their mortgage deposit.
The scheme has proved extremely popular and has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period”.
HSCHT is also working closely with the Staffin Community Trust and Lochalsh & Skye Housing Association to bring forward a collaborative development to provide six mixed tenure homes at Stenscholl, Staffin. A planning application has now been lodged with Highland Council. Homes for social rent, community-owned rented homes and rent to buy properties will increase the choice of affordable homes and provide a welcome boost to the area. It is hoped that by utilising recent Scottish Government interventions such as Asset Transfer under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 the Rural & Islands Housing Fund, alongside the traditional delivery mechanism of homes using the Housing Association Grant mechanism, it will make the project viable.
Staffin Community Trust chairman Sandy Ogilvie said:
“The need for affordable housing is felt by all small communities. However there is a greater sense of need from the more remote isolated settlements.
So it is with considerable pleasure we have this outstanding house built here within the township of Flodigarry just waiting for a family to make it their home”.
Minister for Housing Kevin Stewart said:
“I’m delighted that our funding has helped to make affordable housing a reality in this rural area. This latest house in Flodigarry is a great example of providing a tailored solution to the needs of individuals, allowing them to remain within, and sustain, their communities.
“I commend the HSCHT’s innovative Rent to Buy scheme and delighted they have now reached 50 homes across the Highlands”.
A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, who are in a partnership with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. stated:
“R.HOUSE are dedicated to providing architect designed, energy efficient, low-cost, locally built homes that can endure the rigours of the Highland weather. We welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this project with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust providing much needed affordable housing in Flodigarry”.
Construction of two new affordable homes will begin shortly at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig through The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Rent to Buy Scheme.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is working in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO) to provide two sustainable low-cost homes for rent and then purchase next to the College in Kilbeg, Skye. This is the first stage of an exciting wider development which is strongly supported by the Scottish Government, The Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise. It is anticipated the scheme will provide a varied range of housing and commercial opportunities over the next few years to enhance the campus facilities and to create a more vibrant, sustainable community.
Dr. Donnie Munro, Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said: We are delighted to be working with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust to facilitate the development of these first two houses on the new Kilbeg site and also delighted that the works have been awarded to two local companies. HSCHT has a proven track record of working sensitively and innovatively within economically fragile rural areas throughout the Highlands to provide housing in a manner which takes full account of local need. With Phase 1 of the Kilbeg Development successfully delivered, this is the next step on an exciting journey to creating a sustainable model for a 21st Century Highland village which has Gaelic language and culture very much at its heart. To achieve this, we will work creatively and innovatively through key partnerships to provide affordable housing and enterprise opportunities in the area.
The recent Sleat Housing Needs Survey has been most useful in showing that ...’low cost housing is required, as well as new rental development to keep up with local business growth, such as with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and the population increase identified in census data.’ In addition to the first phase of housing, Sabhal Mòr is also currently about to embark upon a full Feasibility Study and Business Plan into providing badly needed facilities for Sports, Recreation, Health and Fitness for the area, as a critical part of the wider Kilbeg development plan.
At the turf cutting ceremony on the new Kilbeg housing sites are (from left) Steven Gregg, Highland Small Communities Housing Trust; Cllr Audrey Sinclair, The Highland Council; Prof Boyd Robertson, Principal, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig; John Swinney, Deputy First Minister; Angus MacDonald, James MacQueen Building Contractors; and Dr Donnie Munro, Development Director, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive Officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said:
“We are delighted to be working again with James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and R.HOUSE to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes in Kilbeg. The Rent to Buy Scheme provides households with the opportunity to rent and then purchase their homes with the aid of a loyalty cash-back amount for their mortgage deposit. The scheme has proved extremely popular and it has Scottish Government loan funding secured for around sixty homes, spread throughout various communities over a three year period.
Working with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is an excellent example of how focused partnership working in smaller communities can create positive and significant impacts to address housing shortages in rural areas and also provide a stimulus to the local economy.”
Local construction firm, James MacQueen Builders Ltd. who work alongside Skye based architects Rural Design, has been awarded the contract and they are set to begin work on site shortly.
A spokesperson from R.HOUSE, a partnership between James MacQueen Builders Ltd. and Rural Design stated:
“R.HOUSE is dedicated to providing architect designed, energy efficient, low-cost, locally built homes that can endure the rigours of the Highland weather. We welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this project with Highland Small Communities Housing Trust and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, providing much needed affordable housing as well as a supporting the local Gaelic culture.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“It is terrific news to hear that the building of these new homes will start soon at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This is another key step in the ongoing growth and development of the college and regeneration of the area. As well as the housing, these developments include a wide range of benefits for language and education and also for skills and employment.
I was very pleased to hear about the project at the college earlier this summer and I would like to commend staff and trustees at the college for their commitment and vision in bringing these plans to fruition.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.