Over the last two years The Trust has been working with Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Housing Association Ltd and the Islands Small Communities Housing Trust to consider what Westray’s housing needs are now and, what could the future need look like.
In summary The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust was commissioned to provide a detailed study into the opportunities available to help to progress the aims and objectives of the Westray Development Trust. The report provides an overview of the development opportunities for land, commercial properties and for housing. Detailed consideration was given to the most suitable sites, and the main findings from a series of community consultation exercises was explored. The report also investigated potential partnerships and examples of funding mechanisms to aid the delivery of the most viable projects identified. Part of the process was to discuss potential site with the Orkney Isles Council’s Planning Department. They provided some general advice as each planning application would be considered in its own merit.
THE RURAL HOUSING FUND & ISLAND HOUSING FUND – The Rural Housing Fund is a £25m fund launched by the Scottish Government in April 2016, with a further £5m specifically earmarked for island communities, The Islands Housing Fund, announced in September 2016. The aim is to support development in rural areas by making grants and loan funding available to viable rural and island housing developments.
SCOTTISH LAND FUND – The Scottish Land Fund is designed to allow communities across the whole of Scotland, the opportunities to enable communities throughout rural and urban Scotland to purchase land and buildings to create independent, resilient communities. Community groups can apply for assistance with projects from £10,000 to £1m.
COMMUNITY SHARES – Community Shares can part fund development costs, where shares are offered to members of the community in order to raise the required finance for development.
CROSS-SUBSIDY – Where we define cross-subsidy we take this to mean the sale of an asset or part of an asset to provide funding to support the delivery of an objective which requires additional funding support.
PARTNERSHIPS – Securing partnerships can be essential to delivering a project. Some examples which are relevant and can be replicated in Westray and where partnership working has played a key role in making projects viable are as follows:
RURAL HOUSING BURDEN – The Rural Housing Burden is a mechanism used to protect the long-term affordability of homes for sale.
LONG LEASE – The Housing (Scotland) Act was amended by The Scottish Parliament to allow Rural Housing Bodies to create leases of 21 years or more. This enables private lending to be available to projects involving leases which can be of benefit to many community led projects.
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT’S INFRASTRUCTURE FUND – A new fund of up to £50 m is available in 2016/2017 to assist with projects across Scotland to help the government to reach its target of 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY – e.g. community benefit funds or income from renewable energy schemes. As Westray Renewable Energy Ltd is a trading subsidiary of the Westray Development Trust, there may be some potential to invest in some community projects which include housing or commercial opportunities.
LOW COST HOME OWNERSHIP – LIFT SCHEME. Eligible applicants are able to purchase between 60% – 80% of the property price, depending on their individual financial situations.
LOW COST HOME OWNERSHIP – SHARED EQUITY Shared equity homes can be provided separately from the LIFT scheme by a community group or developer.
OPEN MARKET HOUSING – With agreement from the landowner it may be appropriate to sell part of a development site at the full open market value.
SELF-BUILD The term “self-build” is widely used, although we include this to mean people who employ a builder to build their home from beginning to end.
CO-HOUSING – Co-housing can be a way to achieve lowimpact living, affordability and a sense of community in a project KEY WORKER HOUSING Key worker housing is mainly used to describe homes that are rented to people who are working in the area from a range of professions, on a short-term basis.
REFURBISHMENT OF EMPTY PROPERTIES – Refurbishing properties can be a good way of returning existing housing stock back into use, although it is important to recognise that all properties are not suited to being refurbished and then providing an affordable property.
SPECIAL NEEDS HOUSING Suitable housing can be driven by the needs of a particular family with particular care requirements, or with mobility issues for example.
HOUSING SUITABLE FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE – Housing for varying needs building standards provides housing suitable for elderly people.
WESTRAY COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT In order to gain the maximum contact with local people to engage with, HSCHT attended the annual Westray Regatta and the Island Picnic on 30th and 31st July 2016. Seven people responded to a short face to face questionnaire
CONCLUSIONS OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT REGARDING HOUSING OPTIONS: The discussions with members of the community who attended the Island Picnic were helpful to determine the types, tenures and timescale of the housing required by local people over the next few years. The main preference to satisfy the housing aspirations was for self-build. Unfortunately, without access to land or to available finance this method of providing housing can be difficult to achieve. Therefore, if support mechanisms were available to assist the community then this may be achievable for some families. Rented housing and purchasing on the open market were the next preferred options with rented housing being more attractive to those who are new to the island, setting-up new households or thinking about returning.
The full report developed by Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust can be found at HSCHT 2016 Report and the Council’s report at 2015.06.05 Westray Housing report.
The Trust is planning an open meeting to discuss their plans in the near future, details of which will be displayed in the shop windows and social media sites shortly.