An empty schoolhouse in Wester Ross will be transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) and the Coigach Community Development Company.
Secured with support from the Scottish Government, theNationwide Foundation and the Highland Council, the funding will see the disused schoolhouse in the remote community of Achiltibuie, Coigach given a new lease of life.Construction is expected to begin shortly, with the homes due for occupation by new tenants later this year.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 said: “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.”
David Somerville Architects, which has redesigned the property, improving the standards with increased insulation and a responsive heating system resulting in low running costs, said: “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, said: “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.”
Julia Campbell, local development officer at the Coigach Community Development Company, added: “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.”
Back in March we held a Garden Clearout Day when community volunteers transformed the jungle. We’ll be organising another one soon to deal with the summer growth, and with the cheerful knowledge that building work will be starting very soon. Keep an eye on Coigach Community Development Company’s page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@coigachcdc) for updates and sharpen up your shears and saws for action!