Tenants welcomed into affordable homes at empty Highland schoolhouse

School House Coigach Open DayA former schoolhouse in the Highlands that has lain empty for over five years has been transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by the Coigach Community Development Company and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT).

Set in the remote community of Achiltibuie in Wester Ross, the disused schoolhouse has been given a new lease of life as two newly created flats after the ownership of the building was transferred to the community.

An Open Day event to welcome tenants to their new homes was held on March 3, attended by those involved in the redevelopment along with people from the village.

HSCHT project managed the development and is providing housing management services for the properties, which have been allocated to people in housing need.

The Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation, Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise also supported the venture.

Ronnie MacRae, CEO of HSCHT, said: “HSCHT is delighted that the schoolhouse redevelopment is now complete. By working closely with the Scottish Government, the Nationwide Foundation and Highland Council, this adds to the growing number of community-owned housing projects in the Highlands. The Coigach community 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 we hope to work with them on future projects to benefit Coigach.”

David Somerville Architects redesigned the property, improving the standards with increased insulation and a responsive heating system resulting in low running costs.

David Somerville said: “With so many ex public sector houses no longer in use throughout the Highlands this project shows how affordable and energy-efficient accommodation can be made available to young families in remote communities.”

The renovation was carried out by Highland based contractors Kinellan Building Ltd.

The Scottish Government’s new Rural Housing Fund was instrumental in funding the renovation, which is the first project to be completed through this mechanism. The fund has proved 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 was able to provide funding to this worthwhile project through the Rural Housing Fund. The successful conversion of a former schoolhouse into two homes for affordable rent will make a positive impact on this coastal community in northwestern Scotland.”

HSCHT received funding of £120,000 from the Nationwide Foundation through its Decent, Affordable Homes strategy to bring long-term empty properties back into use.

This funding also contributed towards the completion of another property recently, Druim Garbh, owned by the Acharacle Community Company.

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