Social enterprise to build affordable homes in Argyll forest
Kilfinan Community Forest Company (KCFC) is initially offering two homes and two self-build plots in a community-owned forest in Tighnabruaich with the hope of offering more in the future.
A housing masterplan by the charity has been approved by the Argyll and Bute Council Planning Committee.
Like many communities in Argyll, the average household income in the Kilfinan area is low, yet house prices remain high. Second homes have pushed prices beyond the reach of many families, leading to a declining population.
As well as providing genuinely affordable homes, KCFC’s innovative housing project will create training opportunities and jobs locally and could provide a model for communities facing similar issues in Scotland and beyond.
The houses have been designed to be affordable, practical and inspiring spaces that meet the changing needs of families. A range of sizes will be offered over time, and the design of the houses is such that internal layouts can be easily changed. Built to meet current building standards, the owners will benefit from all the latest developments in energy-efficient design.
Unlike traditional affordable homes, the plots are large (around 2000 square metres) and the houses spacious. All single-storey buildings, the houses have been designed to sit sympathetically within the landscape. Every building, including the self-built houses, will follow the same design template to create a cohesive and appealing look with a low visual impact.
Using innovative design and engineering, substantial parts of the houses can be built using wood from the forest and processed on site in the saw mill. This sustainable approach keeps costs low and creates more jobs locally. Ease of build is also central to the design.
Robert Borruso, KCFC’s housing project manager, said: “This project is ground-breaking on a number of levels. Here is a rural community taking control of its future and finding its own solutions. We have land, we have timber and we have people who have the energy and passion to make it happen; what’s more it’s a masterclass in sustainability. We want to show that with innovative and appropriate design, Scottish timber can be used to build high-quality Scottish homes. It could provide a template for other communities, enabling more families to make their homes in rural areas like this.”
David Blair, KCFC’s chair added: “One of the major long-term objectives of KCFC is to show that sustainable living in a woodland setting can be affordable and accessible to all. We believe that to have a ‘living forest’ you need to have people living and working in the forest. This creates a sense of ownership and belonging which is vital for the future of the forest.”
KCFC expects interest in both the ready-built houses and the self-build plots to be high and has established a selection process that will take into account a number of factors, including the applicants’ contribution and commitment to the local community.
The charity hopes to be in a position to offer the first self-build plots by the end of 2015, and the first KCFC built houses in 2016.
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(Image courtesy of www.hivedesignstudio.co.uk)