Building Rural Futures – RHS Conference 2018

23rd February was the date for our annual conference. The theme this year was Building Rural Futures. As per usual, the conference was held in Birnam (with the pre-conference evening reception being held at Dunkeld House Hotel).

We were delighted to welcome around 100 delegates and speakers to discuss various subjects ranging from Island Proofing through to hutting and cooperative self-builds. Unsurprisingly, the Planning Bill was a hot topic and Richard Heggie of Urban Animation gave us a presentation of why EVERYONE should get involved in the discussion.

A common concern throughout the event was the debate over providing housing where it CAN be delivered (in order to hit the Scottish Government’s 50k Affordable Homes target) as opposed to delivering housing where it is needed.

Shortly after the conference, a report commissioned by Shelter Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland was published. The aim of this Review of Strategic Investment Plans for Affordable Housing (here) is to better understand how the Scottish Government target is likely to be delivered in practice and should help keep the discussions raised at the conference going.

If you missed the conference or would like to have another look again at the presentations, you can find them on this page.

Rural Housing Fund Seminars

We have been organising seminars on the Rural Housing Fund. At the seminars, the Scottish Government provide information about it e.g. who is eligible to apply, how to apply, how much grant is available…. and Rural Housing Scotland give details on how communities in other parts of Scotland have delivered and developed their own projects. We have been lucky enough to be joined by other organisations, such as HIE/Scottish Land Fund, Scottish Land and Estates, Community Land Scotland and the relevant local authorities.

The next Rural Housing Fund seminar takes place on 25 October in East Lothian. If you live or work in/near the area and you are interested in attending, you can register on Eventbrite.

Here is the programme for our last seminar in Inverurie, to give you a taste of what to expect.



Scottish Rural Parliament – see you there!?

Rural Housing Scotland and Our Island Home are very much looking forward to meeting lots of new people and catching up with old faces at the Scottish Rural Parliament in Brechin next week. We’re going to have a stall at the marketplace so please pop by and say hello 🙂

We will have lots of useful information and will be ready to support you in your quest for community led housing! If you have a project in mind, come and have a chat. With the Rural Housing Fund (and now the Islands Housing Fund) open to expressions of interest and applications, there is support out there for you, whatever stage your project is at. With a track record of working on community-led housing projects across the country, we aim to give you the most practical advice we can.

In other news, our Rural Housing Fund seminars we are organising in several rural local authorities are going very well. Tomorrow, we will be in Inverurie. For more information:


Ulva Ferry Housing News

The two 3 x bedroom PassivHaus standard affordable rental homes have been under construction at Ulva Ferry since early August 2016. This is exciting news, especially for the local community, volunteers and staff that have been working towards this goal.

There is also an affordable plot for sale in the Ulva Ferry area. If you are interested, you should contact Helen MacDonald.

School children sitting in floor insulation blocks!

Acharonich Poster Colour

NEWS | Rural Housing Scotland | Our island Home

January News and Views (click to download)

Our Island Home

We are absolutely delighted that the Prince’s Countryside Fund are to support the project again, for another 3 year period. This means that our project officer can continue to deliver housing projects across the Hebrides. The project will concentrate on finding affordable housing options for young people,  delivering housing education workshops to secondary school pupils, developing social media and web based housing options and advice and securing funding for housing projects in the Hebrides.

Scottish Government

We welcome the news from the Finance Secretary at the end of last year of an increase of £90m in the budget for affordable housing. The Housing Minister has confirmed that the government’s 50,000 new build target for the next term, of which 70% will be social rent properties. How much of these will be rural we do not know but as always, we will be lobbying the government and working with local authorities, housing associations, development trusts and individuals to help create more affordable housing options for rural communities.

A new Rural Housing Fund is currently being developed by the Scottish Government, aimed at innovative community let housing developments. Rural Housing Scotland and Our Island Home will be able to help communities to develop applications to this fund.


At Rural Housing Scotland, we are putting together final preparations for our Annual Conference which takes place on 25/26 February 2016 in Birnam. The title of this year’s conference is ‘Strengthening Communities’ and speakers include the Minister for Housing & Welfare, Margaret Burgess MSP, Professor Sarah Sherratt of SRUC, editor of Rural Scotland in Focus biennial reports and Dr Kim McKee from St Andrews University, who recently published the report “Generation Rent’ which focused on young people in the private rented sector.

The Housing Minister will discuss the Rural Housing Fund at the event and the lunch break will provide an opportunity for interested communities to drop-in and speak to Scottish Government staff for advice on application.s

This is the premier rural housing conference in Scotland and we attract around 120 delegates per year from community organisations, housing association staff and senior government officials amongst many other sectors. We look forward to welcoming new faces and regulars. For more details and how to book, visit

Ulva Ferry Housing Project

Just before Christmas, the Ulva Ferry Housing Partnership were given a massive boost when the Quaker Housing Trust granted the project a massive £40,000.  This comes after a grant application made my project manager Helen MacDonald led to a Trustee visit. The visit, which was hosted by Mull and Iona Community Trust and Ulva School Community Association, obviously made a great impression. This assistance has significantly reduced the shortfall for the rental houses, which will be built to a high spec in order to reduce heating and running costs for the tenant, this will address fuel poverty in an area that largely relies on oil heating (43.4%).  You can help finance the housing project and find out more by visiting


Housing Generation Rent – Dr Kim McKee and Jennifer Hoolachan

Rural Scotland in Focus 2014 – SRUC Policy Centre

Ulva Ferry Housing Project

Rural Housing Fund – The Scottish Government

Posted 15/01/16  by Jodi MacLeod

Our Island Home Winner

News Release

Date: 28/02/14

First affordable island house design prize awarded

Arc Architects, a small rural Fife practice named winner of Our Island Home Design Competition

Following a bumper entry of 50 designs from small architecture practices across the country the Our Island Home Design Competition award was presented today by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment at the Rural Housing Scotland Conference in Birnam.

The competition sponsored by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, Highlands + Islands Enterprise, Scottish Sea Farms, UPM Tilhill and BSW Timber Group asked architects to design an affordable 2 bedroom starter home suitable for the Hebrides that is easy to build and cheap to heat for under a challenging budget of £100,000.

From a shortlist of six projects – described by the Chair of the Judging Panel, Lesley Riddoch as “inspiring, practical, green and quite ingenious” , the judging panel selected a design by Tom Morton of Arc Architects, from Cupar as the winner.

Tom’s island home design was deemed ‘the most thoughtful submission’ by the judging panel The design features that aided its success in the competition were its low environmental impact, simple construction and aesthetic approach. It was important for the design to meet the vernacular of island life and Arc’s design made sure there was a porch for wellies, a larder and a shed outside.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“I was impressed by the standard of designs submitted and congratulate (name of winner). Housing is and will remain a priority for this Government and we will continue to invest in new affordable homes, which are particularly needed in rural areas.
“It’s great to give some of Scotland’s top architectural talent the opportunity to showcase their skills in a competition which is full of good intentions.”

Rural Housing Scotland will be working with community landowners and the winning architect to build the winning design in several locations in the Hebrides, with the first houses planned for the Isle of Mull

Notes to Editors

Photo of the winner (Tom Morton) with Richard Lochhead, Lesley Riddoch and the shortlisted architects.

Press release contact:
Jodi MacLeod 07701064888 | | rhsjodi – skype

Our Island Home was created by Rural Housing Scotland to help young people in the Hebrides access affordable housing. It has three main aims: to help island communities create new housing options for rent and ownership; to develop an island starter home which is easy to build, easy to transport, and easy to heat; to provide advice on housing options to young people

The Our Island Home competition aims to deliver a 2 bedroom house for less than £100,000 and Rural Housing Scotland will work with community landowners in the islands to find sites and funds to build the winning design. It is expected that the winning design will be used by community landowners, self builders and housing associations.

Our Island Home is based on the Isle of Mull and works across the Hebrides from Islay to Lewis.

Our Island Home is a project of Rural Housing Scotland, the trading name of Rural Housing Service. Rural Housing Service is recognised by OSCR, Scottish Charity No. SC 031239 and is a Company Limited by Guarantee SC 216096.

OIH Judging Panel

Lesley Riddoch Author + Journalist (Chair)
Annie McKee Rural Housing Scotland (Vice Chair)
David Chisholm Architecture + Design Scotland
Rory Conn Scottish Sea Farms
Ian Hepburn North West Mull Community Woodlands Company
Seonaid Maclean-Bristol Development Coll
Malcolm Robertson Corben Consulting (Technical Adviser)
Neil Ross Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Ed Taylor The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community
Raymond Young Rural Housing Scotland

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