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.”
On Wednesday the 15th of July, we held an Open Day in Acharacle to mark the completion of our newly renovated property – Druim Garbh.
The sun was out for what proved to be a great day over on the rural west coast village, with many different people attending the event.
This blog focusses on celebrating the achievement of everyone involved, as it really showcases all that was achieved over the past several months.
Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, the previously neglected property, which has been sitting empty for the past 6 years, is now set to act as a great new home for people from the area. The new tenants work nearby, but had to live with family due to a lack of housing provision within the area. In rural communities around the Highlands such as Acharacle, people are increasingly being forced to leave their families, jobs and friends behind in search of a suitable home. This means that when funding is available from schemes such as the Nationwide Foundation’s empty homes programme, it allows us to provide a new affordable home to the area, and generate a huge community benefit.
It was a very successful day to round up a successful project, with Bill Hall, Chair of The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust saying a few words to welcome everyone to the new home, acknowledge its completion and endorse the use of a new housing model in the Highlands.
HSCHT are privileged to be the only organisation in Scotland to receive funding from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy, which has invested over £750,000 into empty homes projects across the UK. This funding, a combination of grant and loan, has given HSCHT the means to renovate two Highland properties and plans are well underway to refurbish the second community owned property which is located further north in Achiltibuie. Druim Garbh is the first of these properties which we are working together to renovate into new affordable homes for people in housing need, and has allowed us to gain experience of the challenges inherent in bringing empty properties back into use and of providing a new, long lease housing model for empty homes.
The new property has been fully renovated inside and out. Not only is there a drastic change to the external appearance of the property, but it has also now has a brand new kitchen and bathroom, along with a completely new heating system to boost the energy efficiency of the home.
The use of a local contractor (S & K MacDonald Homes) and providing an apprenticeship training opportunity was vital to the success of the project. The contractor, his local joiner and a 16-year old school leaver, who was a trainee on the project, also came along for the event. It was great to have all of those who had worked hard on renovating the house over the previous months in attendance. The trainee’s employment was a condition HSCHT’s contract with the contractor, who was happy to accommodate him.
HSCHT project manager Fraser Cardow said: “The contractors here have been hugely helpful in trialing this new approach. We hope to be able to attach an apprentice to every future development and this pilot has worked very well. This lad has been able to work as part of the team on this renovation and has been getting great experience on other jobs too. Getting these new skills will help to strengthen the whole community by growing the pool of local tradesmen”.
Contractor Kenneth MacDonald said: “We’re not a huge firm but taking another apprentice is entirely positive. Getting new blood in lifts everyone’s spirits, and local people appreciate the effort we put in with youngsters. It’s also important because we need to build a local base of skilled tradesmen so that we can tackle jobs on the west coast without the costs of having to bring in people from hours away. It’s important that the boys have a chance to work instead of sit in a van. We’re training a workforce for the future.”
The Acharacle Community Company, who own the property were a great help throughout the process, with members also coming along on the day to celebrate the achievement.
They said: “We are delighted to see the renovation work at the bungalow completed to such a high standard and very pleased to be offering this accommodation back into the community for low cost rental. Many thanks to the Highlands Small Community Housing Trust for all their help and support in making this happen.”
HSCHT are very proud to have had facilitated this project from start to finish, and are incredibly happy to say that new tenants should be moving into the property within the coming week.
Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust explained that“HSCHT is delighted to see the refurbishment of Druim Garbh complete. The key feature to the success of the project has been the superb co-operation with the community and the wider partnership of those involved. This project has brought together a welcome and innovative funding stream from the Nationwide Foundation and our well established contacts with the Acharacle community, resulting in a desirable home being available at an affordable rent for people in Acharacle.
HSCHT want to thank the local construction firm, S & K MacDonald Homes, for their hard work and flexibility in carrying out the renovation to such a high standard and providing an energy efficient home. They have given it, literally, a new lease of life”.
Keep a look out for another upcoming blog discussing our Empty Homes renovation project, where I discuss in further detail the construction work that was carried out throughout the property, and how it was achieved. It will also feature before and after photographs from each of the renovated rooms.
If you have any questions about our Empty Homes project, or any of our other projects, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the first of this three part blog regarding the recently renovated property in Acharacle, owned by the Acharacle Community Company, I aim to discuss the background of the project as we gear up for our big Open Day next week (Wednesday 15th of July) which will mark the projects official completion.
In the Highlands there are numerous communities and small rural villages and towns which are home to a number of empty properties, remaining uninhabited. Renovating empty homes is something The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust believes greatly in, as it is yet another way that we are able to provide affordable housing solutions to rural communities around the north of Scotland. Despite the current housing shortage, the UK has around 260,000 long term empty homes, with a large number of empty commercial properties which could be used as homes.
Community Owned Property
Druim Garbh, is a timber-framed, three-bedroom detached dwelling house that was built circa 1976. The community owned property had many uses since it was built, however over recent years had been left empty to deteriorate. Although the house was still standing and structurally stable, it required much renovation before it could provide as a good home for a member or family within the community of Acharacle.
A minute of agreement and a lease is in place between HSCHT the Acharacle Community Company. This allows HSCHT to manage the property on their behalf for a period of 21 years after which the home reverts to the control of the community company.
HSCHT intends to lease the home to tenants which fit with the agreed allocations policy on a Short Assured Tenancy basis.
Environmental, economic and social sustainability are all qualities which HSCHT believes are very important to modern housing provision. In HSCHT’s quest to secure affordable housing solutions around the north of Scotland, we also attempt to create environmentally friendly homes. Specified in the tender document was the need for the house to meet an overall standard of energy performance. In this case, that standard in terms of Building Standards is ‘Bronze Active Standard’
Bronze Active Standard – This is the baseline level where the dwelling meets the functional standards set out in Sections 1 – 6 of this [Building Standards Domestic 2013] Handbook, but in addition the dwelling includes the use of a low and zero carbon generating technology (LZCGT) in respect of meeting Standard 6.1 within Section 6, Energy. This level is primarily to assist local authorities to meet their obligations under Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 by identifying the use of LZCGT. In this respect, LZCGTs include: wind turbines, water turbines, heat pumps (all varieties), solar thermal panels, photovoltaic panels, combined heat and power units (fired by low emission sources), fuel cells, biomass boilers/stoves and biogas.’
Another key aspect of the project was the introduction of a trainee element. The provision of training and jobs to young people around the Highlands is another very important part of the work HSCHT undertake. We even have our own construction skills project – The Cairngorm Skills Project. (http://www.cairngormsskillsproject.org/)
The Nationwide Foundation were also hoping that the project would allow for a trainee to work on the renovation.
Thanks to financial aid from The Highland Council, HSCHT were able to fund a trainee position. The young trainee, who is local to Acharacle, has been working as a second man to the main joiner working on the renovation, providing him with a vast amount of experience as he develops many different skills. He will be starting college later in the year to gain further knowledge in the subject as he works towards a gaining a qualification. The experience gained working on the Druim Garbh project, will hopefully provide him with a great boost as he begins his studies.
HSCHT’s own graduate trainee, who has a MA in Architecture has also been helping to project manage the refurbishment of the property.
The contractor for the project was chosen through a tender process. The tender document was sent to a number of local contractors, with S & K MacDonald Homes being chosen as the successful contractor.
HSCHT then worked out the final details of the renovation work with Kenneth Macdonald of S & K MacDonald homes, assessing the various options for things such as heating etc. The contractor worked very closely with HSCHT to allow us to achieve an affordable project that fit well with the funding that had been made available to us by the Nationwide Foundation.
UPCOMING OPEN DAY
Keep a look out for Part 2 and Part 3 of this Blog over the next couple of weeks.
One blog will take a further look at the property and what renovation works have been carried out. As well as a look at how the property achieves its high Energy Performance Level.
The other will showcase the completed home, as well as recap our Open Day.
For more information on the project or our upcoming Open Day, please get it touch with me via email@example.com
The Nationwide Foundation
This is the reason the Nationwide Foundation set up their Empty Homes Fund in late 2013. The Nationwide Foundation is a registered charity set up in 1997 by Nationwide Building Society that since its creation, has awarded over £30 million to other charities across the UK. This funding allows organisations such as HSCHT to turn these empty properties into habitable homes. The fund was designed to bring empty properties into use for people in housing need and also to look at solutions to the challenges which currently curtail more renovation. HSCHT applied to the fund to help to refurbish and bring two homes back into use in the Highlands. Druim Garbh is the first completed home under this scheme.
On 21st of April 2015, MSP Margaret Burgess, the Scottish Governments Housing Minister visited projects we have been involved with in both Dornoch and Helmsdale.
In her visit to the town of Dornoch, a place where HSCHT has developed many new homes recently. In the past 12 months, we have completed 6 new homes in the area. The first two properties in Dornoch were built through our first phase of Rent To Buy properties, working with local contractor J & S Gunn. Both are now occupied, with 2 families now been given the opportunity to own their own home after renting the property for 5 years before purchasing at a reduced, below-market price. This is made possible by the attachment of a Rural Housing Burden to the property.
Since 2013, the Scottish Government has issued over £7 million to our Rural Rent to Buy scheme, as we continue to develop affordable housing throughout the Highlands.
Right next door to these properties are two new homes developed for the Highland Council through the Greener Homes Initiative. These properties have recently been completed very recently this year and have already been allocated to residents who have now moved into the properties. The Minister got the chance to not only meet these residents, but also view the inside of the homes.
Rent to Buy and Greener Homes projects are being developed across the Highlands thanks to an innovative partnership between Scottish Government, Highland Council and HSCHT. The various schemes that have been developed through funding from the Scottish Government, have not only provided the Dornoch with new varying types of affordable housing solutions, but has also allowed for new members of the community to get on the housing ladder.
Margaret Burgess then went on to visit our brand new homes built by Pat Munro Homes through the Rent To Buy Scheme. Completed at the very end of last year, the two semi-detached properties are now home to very happy residents who are now on their way to owning their own home. Located in the new Deans Park development in Dornoch, one of our Tenants, was happy to greet the Minister and welcome her into her home.
The Minister then travelled north to visit the community of Helmsdale to view their community owned housing project. Helmsdale & District Development Trust (HDDT) is spearheading a new community led housing development having built four new homes in the Highland village of Helmsdale, backed by £110,000 of Scottish Government investment. During her visit to Helmsdale, the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess met with new tenants of these properties, the local development trust and many children from the local primary school.
This innovative project is being driven by the community in order to provide community owned housing to ensure the future sustainability of the area. All statutory housing provision in the last 30 years has been provided in neighbouring villages, which has been detrimental and has led to out-migration from the community. Helmsdale went 35 years without any new affordable housing being made available for rent, and held a desire to solve this, as well as the aging demographic of the village.
HSCHT helped with this project in a number of ways. This included community engagement and facilitation, a local survey, initial project feasibility ans desktop funding options, negotiations with landowners and the local authority and the initial fundraising – a key challenge for the community in order to obtain the vision for this new project.
By partnering the Local Authority, local RSL along with guidance from HSCHT, Helmsdale community were able to deliver a feasible and practical solution to meet their longer term housing needs – four brand new rented homes to be managed by Albyn Housing Association using policies agreed with the Highland Council.
Helmsdale is part of the Growth at the Edge initiative by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. A local development officer consulted with the community through a series of open days and has produced a document “Shaping our future together”. In this housing features as a high priority for local people. Creating new community housing here will help make the community more sustainable:
There are a range of other benefits this project created including:
The day was a great success, and was seemingly enjoyed by all. Not only did Margaret Burgess perform the official opening ceremony of the Helmsdale & District Community Owned Housing Project, acknowledging the great success and work of the community, but it also allowed HSCHT to showcase the work we do throughout the Highlands.
If you would like any more information on these or any other projects we have worked on, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, should you be interested in how we can help you or your community, call us on 01463 233549.
This modern property lies towards the west coast of the country near Ballachulish in the Lochaber area of the Highlands.
In 2008 we sold this vacant plot to a family who would go on to build a home for themselves with help from attaining a Rural Home Ownership Grant from the Scottish Government – a grant which is now no longer available. The plot was a shared equity project, allowing the family a discounted plot for below the land value.
Recently due to work commitments, this family decided to move – resulting in HSCHT fully buying back the property. The Rural Housing Burden previously set on the land, meant the trust has the first opportunity to buy the house.
This has allowed us to provide a great new home to another family, who otherwise may have struggled to find a property in the area. This new family can now cite their close family members as neighbours – a desirable factor in the search for suitable applicants by the trust, as we look to provide homes to people who have a form of local connection to these rural areas.
This family will now rent the property at a reasonable price for 5 years, before being presented with the opportunity to purchase the house. The shared equity we hold and Rural Housing Burden in place allows the family to buy the property at a price much below market value when the time comes.
If you are interested to hear about any similar properties or projects in your area we may have available. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
This blog will feature a wide variety of HSCHT’s developments and types of projects located throughout the Scottish Highlands. It will also include the latest news and updates regarding the trust.