Lochaber communities to benefit from twenty new affordable homes

Six completed properties at School Road in Strontian
Six completed properties at School Road in Strontian

A collaboration between Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) and The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) has delivered twenty new affordable homes across four Lochaber communities.

After listening to the needs of local communities the new homes are located in Kilchoan, Lochyside (Fort William), Mallaig and Strontian.

This ambitious development programme forms part of an agreement between LHA and HSCHT to build 40 new homes per year. Development is currently on-going in several areas in Lochaber to invigorate the area by offering a diverse range of housing tenures to strengthen the communities.

LHA provides social rented homes and low-cost home ownership properties (LIFT), to complement HSCHT’s Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build options.

Blair Allan, chief executive of Lochaber Housing Association, said: “Scottish Government financial support for increasing the number of new affordable homes throughout Scotland is at unprecedentedly high levels and we are committed to doing our utmost, in conjunction with the Highland Council, to take up all the available funding in Lochaber where, as everyone knows, the need for good quality truly affordable is so high.

“As many will be aware, the Association stopped developing new build properties some years back because grant levels and borrowing terms in the financial markets were so disadvantageous.

“Now, however, revised grant levels and better market conditions have enabled us to resurrect our new build programme and our development services partnership with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has been invaluable in enabling us to gear up again, not only to deliver our ambitious new build programme, but to provide a diversity of tenures that reflect local needs. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the Trust to deliver even more new affordable housing opportunities wherever the need exists in communities throughout Lochaber.”

Kilchoan has recently benefitted from three properties for social rent, built by S&K MacDonald Homes Ltd, and there are ten properties at Lochyside, made up of eight for social rent and two through the Scottish Government’s LIFT scheme, which were developed by Campbell Joinery (Lochyside).

In Mallaig, there is a two bedroom Rent to Buy property completed by A & N Fraser Joinery & Building Contractor Ltd, which is due for occupation next month.

In Strontian six new homes have been recently completed alongside a serviced plot for self-build. To aid potential self-builders the Scottish Government has provided a £4 million fund, The Highland Self-Build Loan Fund, where eligible applicants can borrow up to £175,000 to fund the initial stages of their build.

Occupants are soon due to move into the properties built next to the High School in Strontian. This is the first stage of an inspiring wider development which is strongly supported by the Sunart community following a masterplanning exercise for the larger site. The development also includes Scotland’s first community owned primary school being driven forward by the Strontian Community School Building Group Ltd and currently project managed by HSCHT.

The group currently has a live invitation to purchase shares to raise funds for the project.

The properties in Strontian were completed by R.HOUSE, a partnership between local construction firm James MacQueen Builders Ltd and Skye based architects Rural Design.

Ronnie MacRae, chief executive officer, The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working again with a range of experienced local contractors to provide energy-efficient, lower-cost homes throughout Lochaber in various housing tenures. The Rent to Buy Scheme is a low-cost home ownership scheme which 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.

“Working with Lochaber Housing Association is an excellent example of how focused partnership working in smaller communities can create positive and significant impacts to address housing shortages in rural areas. The Highland Council and the Scottish Government’s continued support allows a diverse mix of housing tenures to be provided and also acts as a stimulus to the Highland economy.”

Minister for housing Kevin Stewart said: “I am delighted that the strong working relationship between Lochaber Housing Association and Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, along with their construction partners, has resulted in such positive outcomes.

“The Scottish Government encourages the use of different housing models and these practical examples of rural housing, backed by our affordable housing supply programme, low-cost home ownership scheme (LIFT), as well as our Highland Rent to Buy Scheme and self-build pilots, has given people who might not otherwise have been able to afford their own homes the opportunity to get on the housing ladder.

“Last year we also launched of a £25m Rural Housing Fund which will also provide an estimated 500 new affordable homes for Scotland in rural areas over the next three years by helping with the building of new homes and the refurbishment of existing buildings.”

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