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Case studies and current projects

Druim Garbh, Acharacle
Acharacle Community Company & The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust.  Long lease model

Druim Garbh Outside

Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, Druim Garbh in Acharacle, which has been sitting empty for the past 6 years is now set to act as a great new home for people from the area. The new tenants work nearby, but had to live with family due to a lack of housing provision within the area. In rural communities around the Highlands such as Acharacle, people are increasingly being forced to leave their families, jobs and friends behind in search of a suitable home. This means that when funding is available from schemes such as the Nationwide Foundation's empty homes programme, it allows HSCHT to provide a new affordable home to the area, and generate a huge community benefit.

The community owned building had many uses since it was built but over recent years had been left empty.  Renovation was needed to bring it back into use as affordable housing for the Acharacle community. A key element of the project was to improve energy efficiency and the introduction of a trainee element.

A minute of agreement and lease was agreed between the Acharacle Community Company and the HSCHT allowing HSCHT to lease the property for up to 21 years.   HSCHT pay the Community Company an annual lease fee and are responsible for the repayment of the Nationwide Foundation loan as well as repairs, maintenance and management costs.  At the end of the lease period and upon full repayment of the loan the property will be handed back to the Community Company in good habitable condition.

A grant of £25k and loan of £35k from the Nationwide Foundation enabled the renovation project to be tendered with local companies with a specification to renovate the property to the bronze energy performance standard.  Improving the overall insulation throughout the property was one of the upgrades that was most important to the project. 

The contractor for the project was chosen through a tender process with tendering documents sent to a number of local contractors.  S & K MacDonald Homes was chosen as the successful contractor. With help from Highland Council, HSCHT funded a trainee position with this building firm.  The young local apprentice has gained a vast experience on this project standing him in good stead to for starting his studies.

Contractor Kenneth McDonald said ' We're not a huge firm but taking on an apprentice is entirely positive.   It's important because we want to build a local base of skilled trades so that we can tackle jobs on the west coast without bringing people in from hours away.   We're training a workforce for the future.'

Ronnie MacRae, CEO of the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust explained that "HSCHT is delighted to see the refurbishment of Druim Garbh complete. The key feature to the success of the project has been the superb co-operation with the community and the wider partnership of those involved. This project has brought together a welcome and innovative funding stream from the Nationwide Foundation and our well established contacts with the Acharacle community, resulting in a desirable home being available at an affordable rent for people in Acharacle.

Cunningham Graham Close, High Street Perth
High Street Regeneration

Cunningham Outside

This historic building in Perth's High Street was built in 1699.  This project to regenerate Perth's oldest inhabited building brings two previously empty flats and two fully modernised commercial units back into use.  One of these was unoccupied for fifteen years.   Work to restore one of Perth city centre’s important and prominent buildings to its former glory has resulted in a boost for the whole area.   Two of the flats and one commercial unit in the High Street building had been unusable for twelve years as a result of dampness.  

This regeneration project involved bringing the owners of the seven flats and two shops together. Twelve owners on either side of this block were also key to the restorations of the historic close.  Perth and Kinross Council's Vacant Property Development Officer, Isobel Butt coordinated the works, with funding from The Perth & Kinross Empty Homes Initiative and Perth City Heritage Fund.   Due to the multiple owners involved in this project Isobel also assisted the High Street Owners Association and the professional team to see this very worthwhile project through to completion.

With determination and skilful co-ordination, everyone pulled together to get the work done. Traditional materials and trades were used and the completed project now sets the standard for the street and the centre of Perth as a whole.

The charitable trust which owns one of the shops is now about to let it to their first tenant in twelve years which will bring an income stream to be used for local good causes. The other shop will provide a first workshop and retail outlet to a young local jeweller who has recently graduated from Art School.  The two previously unoccupied flats have been brought back up to standard for city centre living with increased energy efficiency.

Glengate, Kirriemuir
Empty Homes Loan Fund and advice

Glengate Outside

This property had been empty for approximately 2 and a half years when Sean Maxwell, Empty Homes Officer for Angus Council engaged with the owner. The main reason that the property was vacant was because flooding had previously occurred and due to this the ceilings, walls and internal fittings needed replaced.

The owner was struggling to fund the necessary repairs to bring the property up to the repairing standard. The empty homes officer discussed the options with the owner and suggested the council’s Empty Homes Loan Fund. Once the loan agreement was in place the empty homes officer also engaged with the revenues department to secure a reduced council tax charge for a period during the renovations.

The renovation was completed in March 2016. The cottages' internal layout was drastically changed and all the furnishings including the kitchen and bathroom were replaced to improve the desirability of the cottage and bring it up to the repairing standard.

Sean Maxwell then provided advice and information to the owner about renting the property out. As a result the property was successfully let out at an affordable rent in May 2016.

New Road, Bannockburn
Advice and motivation

Bannockburn Outside

This Stirling house had been unoccupied for over ten years when the council's Empty Homes Officer, Allyson Allison got in touch with the owner to offer support.

The property had been brought to her attention by the Private Sector Team who had previously contacted the owner about routine maintenance.   The main reason the property was empty was because the owner didn’t live nearby and it had fallen off their radar.  By this point the house was in a serious state of disrepair.  

Allyson was able to engage with the owner.  She took photographs to help the owner understand the condition of the house.  When the owner realised the extent of the situation they were motivated to take action.   Allyson was on hand to help with specialist advice.  She tailored a range of suggestions which would bring the property back into use to the owners' current circumstances.  

As a result of this support and encouragement, the property was put on the open market and successfully sold.  The owner thanked the empty homes officer for her support, patience and for caring.  The empty house had become an emotional and  financial burden to the owner and there was a real sense of relief to know that it was soon to be renovated and would become a family home again.  

The neighbour also said “Thanks a million, that’s a great weight of my mind”, knowing the property will now be refurbished.  The empty homes officer then met with the new owner to offer information and support to bring the property back into a habitable condition. The new owner was delighted to be made aware of the free support and help available.

50 -52 Main Street / 2 Cross Street Campbletown
Saved from demolition by Campbeltown Town Heritage Initiative

Campbeltown Outside

Argyll & Bute Council spent several years securing funding and helping to develop the project which saved the building bringing empty flats and retail units back into use

The upper floors of this 18th century listed building, one of Campbeltown’s oldest tenements, had lain vacant for over 20 years and become infested with over 11 tonnes of pigeon guano.

With a Dangerous Building Notice in force, it was threatened with demolition and would have left a gap site in the centre of Campbeltown.

Following a back-to-back legal agreement, the THI facilitated a change of ownership, leading to the full repair of the building, supported by grants of £390,000, from the THI, and £60,000, from the Council’s Housing Services.

The new owner is MacLeod Construction Limited, who also acted as the main contractor for the capital works.

Key Outcomes:

  • Three commercial units and four quality one-bedroom flats brought back into use for private rental;
  • Removal of urban dereliction;
  • Repair and reinstatement of the Macgochans Bar store and cellar (as 2 Cross Street) enabling the bar to re-open under new ownership;
  • The re-opening of Cross Street to vehicle access;
  • Boost to the local economy.