Community owned projects are helping increase the number of affordable homes in the Highlands.
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. Local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development, as well as the overall priorities the Trust has for the area.
In addition, since 2013, the Scottish Government has issued over £7 million to the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) Rural Rent to Buy scheme.
It will deliver around 65 units across Highland and offers people a chance to rent for five years. Thereafter, they receive a cash return to be used as a deposit so they can buy the discounted property which has the purchase price set on valuations at the start of the project to safeguard applicants.
During her visit to Helmsdale, the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess met with one of the new tenants Mrs Amy Withey at the Rockview Place project. Mrs Burgess said
“Housing is at the heart of this Government’s ambition to create a fairer and more prosperous country.
“In the Highlands, Helmsdale and District Development Trust and Highland Small Communities Housing Trust are excellent examples of housing development led by the community for the community. It is great to see not just homes being built, but a wider community being invigorated too.
“We are committed to the provision of affordable housing across Scotland – working flexibly in partnership, and using innovative approaches to maximise investment.”
Ruth Whittaker, Chairperson of HDDT, commented:
“We are delighted and honoured to welcome Mrs Burgess here today, to perform the official opening ceremony of the Helmsdale & District Community Owned Housing Project.
“Although the homes were actually completed in perfect time for local families to move in just before Christmas 2014, we see the Minister’s visit as an acknowledgement of this community’s tenacity in addressing its housing needs.
“It is significant that our success with this innovative project is now inspiring similar community groups to emulate our pioneering delivery model.”
Calum Macaulay, Chief Executive at Albyn Housing Society, said:
“By supporting Helmsdale and District Development Trust with this ambitious and rewarding project, the Trust has been able to deliver four much needed quality new homes for Helmsdale.
“This innovative scheme not only addresses local housing need, it will provide an effective and sustainable income stream that will support and sustain community initiatives for many years to come.
“Today’s handover marks an achievement the people of Helmsdale can be justly proud of, and we wish it every success. We also sincerely hope it will inspire other groups to pursue similar community-led projects throughout the Highlands and beyond.”
Earlier in the day, welcoming the Minster to Dornoch where she viewed HSCHT Rent to Buy properties, Ronnie MacRae CEO of HSCHT said:
“The Rent to Buy and Greener Homes housing the Minister is seeing today in Dornoch are being replicated across the Highlands thanks to innovative and co-operative working between Scottish Government, Highland Council and HSCHT.
“The different funding models provided by Scottish Government in Dornoch allows for mixed tenures of affordable housing to be provided which greatly assists the diversity and sustainability of small communities.
“As we’ve seen with Helmsdale who are an inspiration to other communities the funding from Scottish Government has enabled access to affordable housing that they have been desperately in need of and at the same time it has created economic and employment benefits for local companies and contractors.”