Housing Options

There are a number of options you might like to consider to address the housing needs in your community. These include:

  • working with housing associations to develop more affordable rental and / or equity share homes;
  • acquiring land for housing plots and allowing local people to build their own homes on community land in return for an equity share in the property;
  • facilitating collective self build projects;
  • facilitating co-housing initiatives;
  • creating new crofts in your community;
  • building and managing homes for affordable rent as a community.
  • Mutual Home Ownership Cooperatives are an innovative option, designed as an alternative to conventional home ownership.

Watch recordings from our Options for Community-Led Housing webinar to hear more from our experts.

Working with housing associations

Most new, affordable housing in rural Scotland is built by Housing Associations (HAs) and most HAs will respond to constructive community campaigning for action on housing. Many HAs build both rental property and shared equity properties which allow people to own part of their home and pay reduced rent.

Access to land in rural areas is often an issue and it is not uncommon for Housing Associations to work with communities to build homes on community land. The have also been known to provide housing management, maintenance and development services to community trusts building homes.

Ultimately, the HA will have responsibility for all aspects of the homes they build – from control of the allocations policy to management and maintenance of the property.

The community on Iona worked with West Highland Housing Association to build five new homes on the land bought by the community in response to a community campaign for affordable homes.

Acquiring land for housing plots

Many community landowners have sold house plots to enable local people to build or to encourage repopulation. Communities have taken a variety of approaches including:

  • selling plots at low cost with burden on title to prevent them being used as holiday homes;
  • selling plots for a nominal fee in exchange for an equity share in the finished home;
  • selling plots at full price to raise money for other community-housing projects;
  • selling plots to support wider community sustainability and repopulation.

Collective self build

Collective self build is where a group of people get together to build homes alongside each other on a larger site. By building together the group can share costs associated with sewerage, drainage and roads and can often share builders again reducing costs by having a larger contract. This form of self build is very common in the rest of Europe, particularly in Germany where it is called baugruppe.

One of the first collective self build developments in Scotland was in the Perthshire village of Spittalfield in 1993. This development involved twelve families pooling their resources to build homes at an old bus depot site and using Rural Home Ownership Grants from the Scottish Government to create affordable homes.

A recent example of collective self build in Scotland is the Bath Street Collective Custom Build in Portobello, Edinburgh. This development created a self build tenement of four homes utilising cross laminated timber construction. An innovative development model and innovative construction method.


Co-housing projects involve a group of people choosing to live in a complex which is created and run by its residents. Each household is a self-contained, private home but, alongside this private space, they share a community space. Residents come together to manage their community and share activities and resources such as heating systems and community vehicles.

Co-housing projects have been created in existing buildings such as Cluny House in Findhorn. Other projects, such as the Hope Co-Housing Initiative in Orkney, those involve creating purpose-built housing built around the needs of those involved.

Creating new crofts

New crofting legislation means that crofts can be created on land which is not currently croft land. This can give people access to land and grants to allow them to build their own homes as well as providing opportunities to use the land productively as a business or for subsistence farming.

Communities may consider converting community-owned land to crofts, acquiring new land to convert to crofts, or working with land owners to create new crofts.

Community homes for rent

If you choose to managed the building and rental of properties as a community, there may be grant funding available from schemes like the Scottish Government’s Rural and Island Housing Fund, but it is likely that you will have to seek private loan funding from a specialist lender too. This loan would then be repaid by rental income from the properties.

This approach gives you some flexibility in terms of who you allocate the housing to so you can give local people priority or choose to make homes available for people moving into the community with specific skills. However, you will also be responsible for management of the housing including dealing with property maintenance, collecting rent and dealing with any disputes.

Communities at Laggan, Knoydart and Ulva Ferry have all taken this approach to community-led housing projects.

Mutual Home Ownership Cooperatives (MHOC)

Instead of individuals owning their own homes, all the properties in a development are owned by a co-operative society. Residents pay a monthly charge to the co-operative, in return for which they build up equity in the coop. This gives residents an interest in the value of the housing assets owned by the co-op. When a resident leaves, they can take this equity pot with them.

Houses remain permanently affordable through the value of grant support, provided to the coop, held as an equity share in each home in the coop. The overall cost of borrowing is cheaper: there is a single mortgage, held by the co-operative, which means that the scheme is open to residents who may be unable to obtain an individual mortgage themselves.

Management of the homes is controlled by the people who live in them: all the residents are members of the co-op, which means they are protected from the vagaries of a private landlord. It is a suitable structure for cohousing, because it lends itself to housing developments where residents co-design and co-manage their own living space.

  • small group – forms a cooperative
  • cooperative owns the homes – no need for households a have deposit or mortgage
  • households acquire shares in the coop through their rent and up to the value of their house
  • shares are sold when households leave the cooperative
  • can also acquire shares by doing some of the build yourselves – sweat equity
  • could use community owned/common grazing land