Communities now operate, own or manage a wide range of services and activities; from abattoirs to forests, from petrol stations to wind turbines and from pubs to ferries. Yet until recently very few communities had chosen to tackle what for many is perhaps the most important service they need – affordable housing.
Partly this was due to the lack of any grant support for communities to be involved in this, partly because housing association has traditionally been the go-to bodies for this activity and partly it was due to housing being a long drawn out process with a number of pitfalls including having the difficult task of deciding who gets a house – not an easy activity in a small community. However as opportunities have arisen, and the Scottish Government has freed up who is eligible to receive grants to deliver housing more and more communities are deciding to do it themselves. Local authorities can also now provide grant aid from their 2nd Homes Council Tax receipts for communities to deliver housing, some such as Argyll + Bute, Dumfries + Galloway and Highland are doing this but others are not.
Another reason why communities are increasingly looking to do it themselves is the great example of trailblazing communities such as:
One of the first communities to go it alone was Laggan who through their Communty Trading Company which ran the local shop, decided in 1996 to buy and renovate 5 empty former Forestry Commission houses. With help from Albyn Housing Society, Highland Council and the Rural Housing Service and securing the first ever loan by the Triodos Bank in Scotland, the community successfully made 5 houses available for rent for local people just across from Laggan Woftrax if your passing.
In Crianlarich the Strathfillan Community Development Trust decided to address the issue of local housing need by buying and renovating former British Rail cottages.
On Eigg, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust who took the island into community ownership have decided to make land available to help affordable self build through their shared equity Eigg Roll initiative.
The Knoydart Foundation have undertaken two community housing projects; the renovation of empty property and building new community owned houses built with Scottish Government grant.
The West Harris Trust a crofting community buy out of Scottish Government owned land are providing house plots at low cost to enable people to build their own homes