Highland Small Communities Housing Trust completes 50th Rent to Buy home

The 50th completed property in Flodigarry, Isle of Skye
The 50th completed property in Flodigarry, Isle of Skye

The completion of a home in Flodigarry, in Staffin on the Isle of Skye, has marked 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.

IMG_1502 PanoramicFlodigarry 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 and 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 added: “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. said: “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.”

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