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