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Rural and island communities must get a fair share of 50,000 affordable homes target

With the Scottish Government committing to building 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the current parliament, how can Scotland’s rural and island communities ensure that a fair share of the homes are built in their areas? The Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2016, run by the Rural and Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF), will debate this issue, and much more, over the course of the two-day event.


Those living and working in Scotland’s rural and island areas are all too aware that they face unique housing challenges. These include:

• higher housing construction costs due to the limited supply of land, higher infrastructure costs and build costs;
• higher housing purchasing costs due to reducing availability of affordable housing through Right to Buy and the urban to rural migration of wealthy commuters and retirees pushing up prices;
• low incomes in rural employment markets;
• high energy and transport costs; and
• difficulty in securing access to finance, for both occupants and developers

Martin Pollhammer, RIHAF Treasurer, said:

“We want to see housing investment split fairly and proportionately between each Scottish Government rural housing classification but specifically to ensure remote rural and island areas get their fair share.

“The new grant funding regime is welcome, as is the level of investment, but it makes larger schemes more attractive. We are concerned that this could result in further lack of investment in affordable homes in the areas that arguably need it most, and these areas have generally lower levels of affordable homes as a percentage of the overall stock to start with.

“RIHAF is ready to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the challenges faced by rural and island landlords can be overcome in order to deliver the affordable homes that are desperately needed.”

The event will be addressed by Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP on Friday 28 October. He said:

“Housing is a priority for the Scottish Government, which is why we are increasing housing supply and are committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed by over £3 billion investment, during the lifetime of this Parliament.

“I know that good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s remote and rural communities and also that building affordable housing in rural areas presents different challenges compared to urban areas. This is why we launched the £25 million Rural Housing Fund earlier this year to increase the supply of affordable housing of all tenures in rural Scotland. I am pleased that in the first eight months of this fund, we have had a very high level of interest.

“Last month, I was delighted to launch the new £5 million Islands Housing Fund which is aimed specifically at increasing the supply of good quality affordable housing on our islands. This, along with the forthcoming Islands Bill, is set to provide lasting benefits for these communities for generations to come.

“There is still much work to be done to ensure this housing challenge is met, and this will require all parties sharing expertise and working together. The Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference is another step on the road to meeting our targets.”

The event will feature speakers from rural and island areas and also look to other countries for inspiration. There will be a plenary session exploring whether or not Scotland could develop a Norwegian-style economy and if this would create a more equal society.

Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General of Housing Europe, will talk about the changing development environment and how political factors, such as Brexit, could affect it and how associations can still deliver in this challenging climate.

Thursday, October 27 2016 9:09


Top Marks for Highland Schoolhouse Conversion

Rural communities struggling to meet demand for local housing are being encouraged to follow in the footsteps of the Highland village of Achiltibuie and apply to a Scottish Government fund to help convert empty properties into homes.

Scottish Empty Homes Partnership

The Coigach Community Development Company, based in Achiltibuie along with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT), have successfully secured backing from the Rural Housing Fund for a project to transform an empty schoolhouse into two flats.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which works across Scotland with local authorities to help owners of empty properties to bring them back into use, has congratulated both organisations on their project and cited it as an ideal use of the fund. It is urging more communities to follow Achiltibuie’s lead.

The local development company worked with community-led housing specialists, HSCHT, which was able to lead the way in attracting financial support for the project from the Rural Housing Fund and Nationwide Foundation. The Highland Council gave them the building for a nominal sum. It’s hoped the first tenants will move in later this year. HSCHT has also taken a 21-year lease on the building and will manage the tenancies.

Kristen Hubert, Scottish Empty Homes Project national manager, said:

“This is a first class example of a small community recognising that a rundown schoolhouse in their area is a huge asset that can be turned into badly needed affordable housing.

“It’s exciting to see the Rural Housing Fund helping local people deliver this vital resource for their area.

“This project embodies the type of work the fund was meant to support, and I congratulate both organisations on its success.”

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has helped to bring over 1,600 properties back into use since 2010 by working with local councils and others. The average cost of renovating a property is much lower than a new building, making it a cost effective way of providing housing.

Kristen Hubert added:

“Our Local Project Service can help communities take action on neglected properties. In rural communities, like Achiltibuie, creating just two new properties out of one old one can make the world of difference to those who need a home they can afford to live in.

“If communities feel daunted at the thought of sourcing funding and managing projects, we can help them find a way forward.

“Anyone who wants to see a private empty property in their area given a new lease of life should find out what services and funds are available to help them realise their ambitions.”

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland. It’s free national empty homes helpline makes it easy for people to report empty homes in their area, and for owners to receive help to bring homes back into use. To report an empty home, get advice if you are the owner of an empty home or to register interest in buying empty properties, call 0344 515 1941.


Finance Conference 2016, sponsored by Murja

10 & 11 November 2016

Macdonald Aviemore Resort


Scottish housing associations are innovators that embrace and drive change and work to support the lives of the half a million people they house.

This year has been significant due to the opportunity to be part of the largest programme of affordable house building for a generation and the challenges following the BREXIT vote. In uncertain times, how can we take account of these risks but still have the confidence to be innovators?

Over two days, the conference will bring together finance professionals from within and outside the sector to discuss the key themes in housing finance:

  • BREXIT – what will it mean for housing associations in Scotland?
  • How to fund and deliver new housing supply
  • The regulatory environment
  • Striving to innovate


This year’s conference opens with an engaging talk from Chris Paton, a former Royal Marine Commando. Chris will share his significant experience in teamwork, strategy and leadership, giving eye-opening real-life examples that inspire his audience to make real changes to the way they approach strategy and planning.

The conference closes with what should be a lively panel session on how we continue to fund and deliver new housing supply. There is a wide range of break-out sessions on topics such as the critical issues around managing assets, value for money, IT and treasury management as well as the customary updates on SORP, tax and VAT issues and pensions.

Get booking to join the largest gathering of social housing finance professionals in the country – don’t miss it! Visit our website to book.

Monday, October 3 2016 9:32


Job of the Week – Chief Executive – SFHA

Chief Executive
£81,000 – £87,000, Pension

We are looking for an inspiring and committed Chief Executive to lead the SFHA to sustain and extend our influence and reputation as the advocate of housing associations and co-operatives and their important work. This is a unique and challenging career opportunity to make a significant contribution that will make a positive difference to the lives of many people for many years.

The SFHA is the national voice of housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland. We support and promote the work of our members and positively influence the policy of local, Scottish and UK Government, Parliaments, the Scottish Housing Regulator and other stakeholders.

We put our members at the heart of everything we do, working together to deliver our mission. We want to see a thriving housing sector continuing to provide sustainable and affordable homes throughout Scotland. We provide quality services and advice and promote the work of our members through evidence based research and campaigns.

We have earned a high reputation and with the retirement of the current Chief Executive in 2017, we are looking for a successor who will continue our growth and development. You will have experience in a senior leadership role, an understanding of the issues and challenges facing the sector and be able to lead on influencing and campaign strategies. An excellent communicator, accomplished in media and public events you will be the ambassador for SFHA and the sector.

You will be a strategic thinker, with commercial acumen, experienced in good governance and working with Governing Bodies. You will be able to lead a motivated and creative team to deliver our priorities.

To find out more about SFHA and how to apply for this unique position, visit To arrange a confidential chat with our recruitment consultant email or call Jim Rennie on 0141 563 9863.

Closing Date 12 noon, 7th. November 2016

Friday, October 14 2016 10:48


Kingdom hosts Annual Tenants’ Gathering in Falkirk for first time

Kingdom Housing Association’s Annual Tenants’ Gathering has been held outside Fife for the first time.

Kingdom new

Reflecting the association’s growing activity across East Central Scotland, Kingdom tenants from Fife and Clackmannan travelled to Falkirk to meet local tenants in combined tenants’ sessions and to enjoy a boat trip and a visit to the Falkirk Wheel.

Bill Banks, Kingdom Chief Executive, said:

“The arrangements for the event were based on suggestions from tenants on how they could better engage in the work of the association, and we were keen to arrange an event that was relaxed while still making a positive contribution to our tenant participation strategy.”

The Tenants’ Conference provided an informal opportunity for tenants to network with each other and discuss the services provided. The programme also included a facilitated allocations session where tenants were asked to consider a range of scenarios and talk about the allocations process, giving particular consideration to factors such as a landlord’s statutory duties and recent legislative changes.

The sessions were a great success, and the tenants gained an insight into the allocations process while doing practical exercises facilitated by Lesley Baird from TPAS Scotland.

The event was opened by Norah Smith, Kingdom’s Director of Housing and Care. Norah welcomed the tenants and outlined that the objective for the day was to seek views of tenants and provide some information on the associations strategies.

Norah thanked all the tenants who had given up their time to attend and participate at the event and commended the good work the association’s Scrutiny Panel had been progressing over the last year.

The programme included the opportunity to meet a representative from Fife Constabulary, who demonstrated examples of ATM fraud and explained how to detect and prevent it. Kingdom’s Energy Adviser, Michael Hui, also met the tenants and gave them some tips on saving money on their gas and electric bills.

The gathering was open to tenants and their families, and while the adults participated in the allocation exercises, the children enjoyed games and face painting.

Max Scotto, Tenant Participation Officer at Kingdom, said:

“We would like to thank all the tenants who attended this special event despite the rain, travelling from as far as Tayport and from as close as Tullibody.”

“We are keen to arrange future events in different locations, and we have encouraged tenants to contact us with suggestions.”

Pictured: Some of the tenants who attended the conference.

Thursday, October 27 2016 9:25


Your help needed: research into face to face fuel poverty advice

Changeworks Consultancy is carrying out research into face to face fuel poverty advice services in Scotland.


The project has been commissioned by the Consumer Futures Unit (CFU) team at Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) to help inform policy development in Scotland. They’d like to hear from you if your organisation delivers face to face fuel poverty services in people’s homes, including any projects completed in the last three years.

Complete the survey.

The survey will stay open until Friday 4 November 2016. All respondents will be entered into a prize draw to win £50 of shopping vouchers or donation towards a local community group or charity. If you know of other organisations or colleagues delivering other projects, please forward this to them.


SFHA conference season: save the dates


10 and 11 November: Finance Conference, Macdonald Resort, Aviemore

1 December: Scottish Factoring Network Factoring Conference, Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

27 and 28 January: Chairs Conference, Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld

30 March: Communications Conference, The Studio, Glasgow

Look out for the latest events news in Housing Scotland magazine and via the SFHA’s Website . Don’t forget to follow SFHA Event Producer Karen on Twitter @KarenDSFHA and @sfha_hq

Friday, September 30 2016 10:27