By Kirsty Crichton
Finding a suitable plot of affordable land is often the biggest hurdle for anyone looking to build their own home, but a group of local residents near Aviemore recently found a way to overcome this problem, providing an excellent example of what can be achieved with collaboration between the community and local landowner, without the need for public funding.
The Badenoch and Strathspey area was recently named as having the highest house prices in the Highlands, with available plots of land becoming very difficult to obtain, particularly those with an affordable price tag. A group of local residents decided to approach local landowners, The Rothiemurchus Estate, who agreed to work with them through the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, who would ensure protection of the discount on the land through attaching a Rural Housing Burden , to provide them with discounted plots on which to build their own homes.
The Old Sawmill Site at Inverdruie offered the perfect woodland setting for local affordable housing. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, in conjunction with The Rothiemurchas Estate, has delivered fully serviced house sites to local people. Each plot was provided with electrical, water, phone & drainage connections, along with sewage treatment plants and completed on site foul drainage, ready for each plot purchaser to start building. The road to the site was also improved by increasing the number of passing places. The group, who are locally known as the “Sawmill Co-operative” sought planning consent for the plots and met all associated costs.
Rural Scotland has seen a shift in working lifestyles in recent years, with improved connectivity offering greater opportunities to work from home. This was the focus for some of the residents on this site, where live/work solutions are being incorporated in to the design of the homes, with the aim of improving the working environment for the modern family and making the community more sustainable.
This project perfectly exemplifies the positive outcomes that communities and landowners can achieve by working together to enable affordable housing, particularly when house prices rise to a level that is unachievable for many local people in rural communities. Four families, who were unable to buy a plot on the open market were able to buy in their locality whilst the site also provided two open-market sites for the Rothiemurchas Estate, offering a win-win solution for both the community and landowner. Work has already started on the plots, with the first of the four families set to move in March 2020.
This type of project would not have been achievable without the support of the Rothiemurchus Estate, the continued drive of the local residents involved in the project and the collaborative effort between the two parties. This approach is commended further by the fact that it requires no public subsidy, making it more achievable for similar communities to replicate.
It is hoped that a similar collaboration between Aviemore Community Company and the Rothiemurchus Estate can be delivered at An Camas Mòr – an exciting project which is being proposed near Aviemore and is set to deliver over 1500 homes, giving people who work locally a fair opportunity to buy, rent or build a home that they can afford. The plan is to create an economically sustainable community by meeting the needs of a diverse range of people. The community development masterplan outlines a focus on social inclusion, by providing live/work opportunities so that vulnerable groups can be cared for in the community and people can restructure their working lives. This forward-thinking development has also been designed in response to the climate challenges that we are facing, and An Camas Mòr is designed to use energy carefully to ease the cost of living both financially and environmentally.
The “Sawmill Co-operative” as they are known, will shortly purchase four of the six plots at a discounted price from the Rothiemurchus Estate, enabling the remaining two to be sold privately by the Estate. Thanks to the Estate for embracing the initial proposal from the self-build group, four local families will soon begin building their own homes on a brownfield site in the Cairngorms with no public subsidy.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) facilitated the negotiations with the Estate and has acted as a vehicle to secure affordable housing by providing discounted plots protected with a Rural Housing Burden. Thanks to the new fund, the Dr & Mrs Steven Faulds Memorial Fund, HSCHT purchased the land and arranged for the servicing of the plots prior to the onward sales to the families.
Although this project has not been without its difficulties and it has taken time to get to where it is now, the determination and motivation of the co-operative must be commended. The eager and ambitious group have set an example that will hopefully inspire people and future projects for years to come.
With planning consent now granted, the Sawmill Co-operative are in the process of securing their self-build mortgages and will be building their new homes shortly. We expect that other projects could benefit from this collaborative approach and are grateful to the Rothiemurchus Estate for leading the way.
On the 21st of June 2018, residents of a small island on the West Coast of Scotland took a momentous step in becoming the guardians of their home, the Isle of Ulva. A successful community buy-out secured the future of the island for the Ulva community. Funds for the acquisition were received from the Scottish Government via the Scottish Land Fund, Macquarie Group Ltd and crowdfunding.
Ulva is a beautiful, remote and almost untouched island that is home to just five residents today. The existing houses are dated and in need of repair but a full refurbishment is planned to transform these dwellings into quality homes for existing and new residents. The island boasts an award winning seafood restaurant, the Boathouse, run by one of Ulva’s own residents. The restaurant and the pedestrian ferry that crosses to Mull are two businesses that operate on the island. The Ulva community are now looking for creative and entrepreneurial people to join them.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) were appointed by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company Ltd (NWMCWC) to assist with their business plan for the renovation of the existing dwellings on the island and to explore opportunities for new builds to encourage repopulation. The island’s population was at one time 600 and as recently as 20 years ago 30 people lived on the island. The aspiration is to create a thriving community both socially and economically and therefore individuals, families and businesses from all walks of life who wish to move to Ulva are invited to participate in the survey.
As part of the renovation of Ulva, the local community have identified immediate employment opportunities for the first stage of Ulva’s transformation. Following decades of neglect buildings, services and forestry have fallen into disrepair and require a significant upgrade. The community are therefore seeking, amongst other things, those who are experienced in construction and / or forestry to relocate to Ulva to restore the island and its assets. A further important trade which could provide an immediate employment opportunity is tourism. The island’s stunning landscape could host campsites, cycle tracks, outdoor activities and many more activities and opportunities that could attract visitors to Ulva and contribute to its growing economy.
Complete our survey to let us know who you are, why you want to move to Ulva, what you would plan to do when living on Ulva and what you can bring to the community of Ulva.
Link to survey: hscht.survey.fm/ulva-survey-1
The Scottish Government have launched a £4 million nationwide Self Build Loan Fund to support self-build projects across Scotland.
At a time where securing self-build mortgages is becoming increasingly difficult, the Scottish Government have launched the Self Build Loan Fund to help those who are interested in building their own home but are struggling to secure suitable finance. The fund will run from September 2018 until 31st August 2021. The £4 million Self Build Loan Fund comes after the success of the pilot Highland Self Build Loan.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) are delighted to have been appointed the agents for the new fund. HSCHT were the agents for the previous pilot fund in the Highlands, which was launched in 2016. Since then HSCHT have helped 12 self-build projects through this fund, with the first few projects coming to a finish earlier this year.
HSCHT are confident after the success of the pilot fund that the nationwide Self Build Loan Fund will be just as effective and very popular.
How does the Self Build Loan Fund Work?
The Self Build Loan Fund is available to help those who have been unable to source a mainstream or high street self-build mortgage. People will be able to borrow up to £175,000 to help them with their self-build project. The fund will provide bridging finance to cover the period of the build, with a mainstream mortgage obtained upon completion of the project in order to repay the loan amount.
How do you apply?
Applications are now open for the Self Build Loan Fund and you can apply through The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s website: www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html
The application process is split into two stages. The first application will establish applicants’ financial status, landownership status, planning status and post completion mortgage status.
If an applicant is successful, they will then need to complete Stage 2 of the application process. This stage will assess the applicants’ build programme, cash flow, building warrant and construction approach.
Once an applicant is successful in both stages, they can then be offered a loan to help with their self-build project.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest to you then please visit www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html for more information, full terms and conditions of the Self Build Loan Fund and the Stage 1 application form. Or if you would like to speak to someone about the Self Build Loan Fund, you can do so by:
Testimonial from self-builder using the pilot Self Build Loan Fund
HSCHT’s 20th Anniversary Conference Dinner and Event
HSCHT organised a Conference Dinner and Event in conjunction with their AGM to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
Dinner, Drinks and Donnie Munro
The Conference Dinner was the first of the two events. It took place on a Thursday evening, at the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel in their Windsor Suite overlooking the bonnie scenes of the River Ness. The dinner was kindly sponsored by Ralph Ogg & Partners.
The evening commenced with a captivating speech by Donnie Munro, Director Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Donnie discussed the importance of affordable housing, the housing difficulties in rural communities and the exciting new Kilbeg village development. HSCHT is working in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Highland Council and the Scottish Government to deliver the next phase of the new village in Kilbeg. Earlier this year the first two houses were completed and the second phase plans will be submitted shortly.
Once Donnie concluded his speech, he picked the winner for the Gin Afternoon Tea prize kindly donated by the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel, which was won by our very own David Fraser. Dinner was then served and followed by a race night, with the proceedings of the race night going to charity.
This is the first Conference Dinner HSCHT have organised and it was great to bring our team, board, community members and businesses together in an informal and relaxed environment.
Donnie Munro and Ronnie MacRae at Conference Dinner
The Main Event
The Conference Event and AGM was held the following day at the Inverness Townhouse Hotel.
HSCHT were very lucky to have several organisations to sponsor different aspects of the Conference Event. Triodos Bank were the main sponsors and Graeme Galloway from Triodos attended the Conference Event to exhibit and take part in the Welcome session on behalf of Triodos and contributed to the Strontian Community School Building session.
HSCHT would like to thank all the organisations who sponsored our Conference Dinner and Event. The sponsor list is as follows:
The Conference Event had several guest speakers covering a range of topics:
The Conference Event provided an opportunity to update people on current housing and community news. It gave people an insight into the work undertaken by HSCHT and other community groups and provided a networking opportunity for people in an array of industries.
Second half top table from left to right: Stewart Nicol, Ronnie MacRae, John Laing, Hamish Trench, Graeme Galloway, Jamie McIntyre and Susan Hunter
The Conference Dinner and Event provided a great opportunity to look back on and celebrate the last 20 years but it was also a great chance to announce some of HSCHT’s new initiatives. This included the launch of the Self Build Loan Fund and the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Fund, two new and unique funds that HSCHT are administering. Both funds aim to encourage and aid self-build projects across Scotland.
For more information on the Self Build Loan Fund look here: www.hscht.co.uk/scotland-self-build-loan-fund.html
For more information on the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Fund look here:
HSCHT would like to thank all sponsors, guest speakers, exhibitors and anyone who attended the 20th Anniversary Conference Dinner and Event. Both events proved a great opportunity for networking, discussion and celebrations.
HSCHT would also like to acknowledge that the Conference Event ran over schedule slightly during the second half and would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused to any of our attendees.
If you attended our Conference Dinner or Event, we would love to hear your feedback to help us improve for future events.
You can do so by completing our short online survey: hscht.polldaddy.com/s/hscht-s-conference-dinner-event-feedback
The Launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund
On the 14th of September 2018, at the The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust’s Conference Event and AGM, Drew Hendy MP announced the launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund (pictured below).
After launching the new fund, Drew Hendry said:
“I was delighted to join the team at HSCHT to announce this new fund which offers families the opportunity of financial support to build their very own rural home. It’s such a lovely way for Dr and Mrs Faulds family and friends to honour the couple’s longstanding commitment to rural housing.
“This fund wont only secure a better future for families who may have otherwise struggled to own their own home, it will also help ensure the vibrancy of some of our most remote communities - a truly wonderful legacy for the Faulds to leave.”
Pictured: Drew Hendry MP announcing launch of the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust's Conference Event and AGM
But What Exactly is the Dr and Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund?
The family and friends of Dr J. Steven and Mrs May Faulds have created a fund in their memory to help individuals and families access affordable self-build housing plots across rural Scotland. The fund will help those who are eligible to purchase a plot of land so they can build their own home.
This comes at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to access high street self-build finance and people often find themselves stuck in the vicious cycle of paying expensive rent and being unable to save for their own home which creates strain on the affordable housing sector.
A supporter of the fund explained that the Faulds had strong family links to the West Coast particularly Mull and Skye and a keen interest in the rural economy specifically the need for good quality affordable housing in rural areas. They went on to say that, “The fund is a way to remember them and continue the work they started in an area they were very attached to. We chose the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust to administer the fund due to their extensive experience and success in providing affordable housing and hope that other benefactors might follow our example when they see what it is achieving”.
A representative from HSCHT explained, “We are delighted to be working with the Faulds fund which is providing an innovative way to tackle a very real problem facing rural communities. It is often impossible for families to get support from a bank or building society to buy a building plot. This fund will provide the seed funding many families need to kick start their dream of owning their own home in their community”
How does the Fund work?
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is administering the fund.
HSCHT will work with communities to identify suitable land to purchase, provide the necessary infrastructure, divide it into self-build plots, and then sell them to an individual or family for self-build purposes. If successful, the applicant will be able to purchase a discounted plot of land with full title on a shared-equity basis with a Rural Housing Burden and right of pre-emption attached.
(Visit http://www.hscht.co.uk/rural-housing-burden1.html to read more about the Rural Housing Burden).
Projects will be undertaken to an agreed programme at the end of which loans will be repaid to the fund. This will allow HSCHT to use the fund again and again to help new communities.
Before fully applying, applicants must discuss the desire to build a home with an independent mortgage advisor. This is to ensure that they can secure a mortgage provider for a completed project that was self-built.
Who is Eligible to Apply?
If you wish to build a home but have not been able compete to purchase a house plot on the open market, this fund may be able to assist you. To be eligible, applicants must be able to demonstrate:
Applicants to the fund will be prioritised in the following order:
A register of interest will be held by HSCHT, who will be in touch with applicants if a house plot becomes available for them in their preferred location.
How to Apply to the Fund
To apply for the Dr & Mrs J. Steven Faulds Memorial Fund contact The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.
T: 01463 233 548.
Pictured: an example of a previous self-build development managed by HSCHT
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) is a not for profit charity specialised in working with rural communities to secure long-term solutions to local housing needs. HSCHT often help communities work with local housing partners such as Local Authorities and Housing Associations to increase the range of alternative housing options available while focusing on the specific requirements of each community. The range of housing options available are vast and will be discussed in more detail shortly.
The Local Consultation
The local community feel there is a clear need for alternative housing options in the area. In order to establish demand HSCHT were invited by the Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust to hold a local consultation in the Templar Arts and Leisure Centre (TALC) in Tarbert. The event ran over two days and aimed to establish an understanding of the main housing needs in the area. The attendees discussed a range of housing options, many of which fill the gap between social housing and market value property for example, self-build plots and finance or rent to buy.
The first session was on the 23rd August and ran from 2pm to 7.30pm to allow those who had work commitments to attend in the evening. We had a steady inflow of individuals and couples visit us that expressed their interest in alternative accommodation. The majority of the enquiries focused on housing that would meet individuals current and future needs, affordable to either rent or buy, and located in the centre of Tarbert or Skipness. In addition, local landowners attended the event to express their support for additional housing in the area.
The local consultation continued on the 24th of August from 9am to 1pm to ensure we offered everyone the opportunity that wanted to attend. Along with their own housing concerns, attendees often raised the issue of young families in housing need but very few families actually attended the events.
Housing for Families
On more than one occasion we were informed that there were several young families living in inadequate accommodation due to high market prices and a limited supply of housing, although very few attended the events. In an attempt to reach out to the younger generation and those with busy lifestyles, we launched an online housing survey on Facebook via local Tarbert and Argyll pages. We hope that this online strategy will reach a wider audience including those that wish to move back to the Tarbert and Skipness area.
It is important to encourage those who are currently living in unsuitable housing to have their voice heard as this will be the building blocks to providing evidence of a need for housing in the area. The Tarbert and Skipness community currently have a great opportunity to take advantage of existing Scottish Government mechanisms to deliver a housing project quickly. For this to happen though we need those who have a housing need to talk to us and express their requirements otherwise they will miss out on this opportunity.
Home Argyll – Register your interest!
We asked every individual that passed through the TALC doors whether they had registered their interest with Home Argyll. The responses received varied from ‘yes’ to ‘what is that?’. Home Argyll is a partnership organisation made up of the following five partners: Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll Community Housing Association, West Highland Housing Association, Dunbritton Housing Association and Fyne Homes. These partners determine where to provide additional social housing based on the housing waiting list therefore if an individual has a need for social rented housing in a specific area it should be highlighted through Home Argyll. It is easy to register your interest online but to make it even easier, here is the link: https://www.homeargyll.co.uk/
How do HSCHT assist communities and individuals?
HSCHT understand that some individuals and families may want a home to call their own or a specific housing tenure but cannot compete with open market prices. It is therefore our objective to identify communities where an increased supply of affordable housing would further enhance their economic and social benefits. As HSCHT is a not for profit charity our aim is to provide community benefit to support the longevity of each community we work with. This is achieved by complementing existing housing provision and working closely with housing partners. With 20’ years’ experience, we have a range of unique housing solutions on offer:
· Rent to Buy
· Shared Equity
· Live-Work Units
· Self-Build Loan Fund
· Faulds Memorial Fund
· Discounted Serviced Self-Build Plots
· Deferred Plot Payment
· Empty Homes
· Other housing options
You can find out more about HSCHT on our website: http://www.hscht.co.uk/
Housing for Businesses and Service Providers
HSCHT acknowledge that businesses often struggle to recruit and retain staff due to a shortage of available housing in rural settlements which subsequently causes a negative economic impact on their business and surrounding area. Furthermore, a lack of suitable housing in Tarbert and Skipness can inhibit any new business start-ups. The online survey provides the opportunity for staff from local businesses or owners or those wishing to start a new business in Tarbert or Skipness to raise any issues they may have as a direct consequence of housing and to tell us how we can help.
Population projections for Argyll and Bute indicate an increasing need for service provision from the NHS and emergency services. HSCHT encourage those specialising in service provision to ask their staff to complete the online housing needs survey as their presence in rural communities is essential. It is imperative to ensure an appropriate range of housing options is available to meet key service provider’s needs into the future.
The housing event in Tarbert attracted 25 individuals over the course of two days. The information gathered over the two-day event is invaluable, but we need more people to come forward. If there are families, individuals or couples living in Tarbert, near Tarbert or wish to move to Tarbert or Skipness that cannot find suitable housing, we urge you to complete our online survey that can be found on Facebook or www.hscht.co.uk/surveys to register your interest in acquiring housing that meets your needs. Unfortunately, if there is insufficient demand for alternative housing options in Tarbert and Skipness there will be no strong evidence to support future housing development.
Tarbert and Skipness are located in a beautiful area in Argyll & Bute. Our aim is to improve the social and economic welfare of both settlements by increasing the availability of affordable housing options but it all starts with you. Please, register your interest either through Home Argyll, our online housing survey, or by talking to a member of the Tarbert and Skipness Community Trust. There is always a solution!
Online survey link: www.hscht.co.uk/surveys
Another home built with assistance from the Highland Self Build Loan Fund has reached completion, providing a suitable home for a local family based on the Isle of Skye.
The Highland Self Build Loan Fund was launched by the Scottish Government in April 2016, and ever since has been providing financial assistance to self-builders around the Highlands.
Scottish Government originally launched the pilot fund in an attempt to rejuvenate what was once the main housing delivery model in the Highlands, and generate economic activity in the area, through encouraging growth in the “self-build” sector again. It is being administered by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.
This initial pilot scheme - allocated to Highland Council region - provides applicants with up to £175,000 to help them build their own home. The Scottish Government loan is then repaid by the applicants upon project completion, when they have managed to obtain a mortgage from the likes of a bank or building society.
This particular couple were able to obtain a piece of croft land from a family member, before moving into an on-site static caravan with their two children. Their final goal was to eventually build their own family home adjacent to the croft land they planned to eventually work.
Provision of self-build mortgages is not as prolific as it once was. Since the financial crash in 2007/2008, the number of lender offering self-build mortgages has decreased drastically. The few lenders who do still offer such products, often hold strict policies which mean that many do not qualify. Reasons for being denied a self-build mortgage can vary from, because the applicant is self-employed, or wishes undertake too much of the work themselves to the fact land was gifted from a neighbouring family member.
Having previously been turned down by banks and other high street lenders due to the fact they wished to undertake much of the construction work themselves, when the Highland Self Build Loan Fund was announced in 2016, this particular couple saw it as a way to finally build their ideal family home.
Borrowing a somewhat modest amount, the applicants have managed to build to their predicted budget, with the whole project taking about a year to reach completion. They are now in the process of repaying the Scottish Government loan, having secured their final mortgage with their chosen lender with relative ease.
Having self-procured the entire custom build project, the applicants have been able to maintain full control throughout both the design and construction phases. A timber kit was provided by a local highland-based kit manufacturer before being erected by the self-builders themselves. They then went on to undertake the majority of the outstanding work themselves, while also making use of various contacts they had when required. This was a great example of how involved a self-builder can get in their project, with the applicant taking on much of the construction works, including works such as some internal joinery and fitting of the kitchen, installing underfloor heating and wood burning stove, as well as the drainage fittings and external groundworks.
The family have now moved into their home - providing them with large amounts of space compared to the static caravan they have been residing in the last two years.
The house is a great and considered design and provides the family with a modern and energy efficient home. Despite the high quality design and specification, the couple have managed to build relatively affordably, through undertaking the whole management of the build themselves, while also dedicating the majority of their spare time to undertaking large amounts of building work themselves. Through effective management and determination to be fully involved in the construction itself, they continued to identify savings along the way.
The final result, is a home, which should they have purchased a similar home on the open market, would have cost them a considerable amount more.
Living adjacent to their croft land would not have been possible, if self-build finance was not available to them. Many crofters struggle to find suitable accommodation even relatively close to their crofts. Now that this family have completed their build and moved into their new home, they plan to work the croft and are looking at introducing cattle to the land in the near future.
Housing provision in rural areas such as this one is sparse, and it is often impossible to find a suitably sized home within an affordable budget. In the likes of the Isle of Skye many homes are also retained as holiday homes, which pushes up property prices even further. The Highland Self Build Loan Fund has allowed this family to live in the area they want, alongside their friends and family, and build a home which suits the needs of their family, as well as their budget.
The self-builders are extremely happy with their new 3 bedroom family home, and are very appreciative that they were able to obtain financial assistance from Scottish Government.
They have stated: “The Highland Self Build Loan Fund has heled us, when we had all but given up building our own house. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust have been amazing in all they have done to help us from the outset, nothing was too much to ask… making a stressful time much easier. This fund has let us build on our croft, meaning we can work it properly and be near both out families.”
The family are extremely grateful for the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, and have said: “We felt physically and emotionally supported, without the support of HSCHT, we would never have continued with our self build plans.”
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust is delighted to hear such positive feedback, and look forward to seeing other self-builders complete their projects in the near future.
This initial pilot scheme has proved very popular, and has generated huge amounts of enquiries, both in Highland and elsewhere – demonstrating the high demand there is for self-build opportunities around the country. Following the success of the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, Scottish Government have taken note of this, and are currently working on the launch of a national Self Build Loan Fund.
To learn more about the fund, or to download an application pack, please go to www.hscht.co.uk/highland-self-build-loan-fund or get in touch via 01463 233549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.