This community-led development of three accessible homes is a milestone for the area, built in response to concerns about the lack of good quality, affordable accommodation for the local community.
The development of An Toll Bàn (“the fair hollow”) was undertaken by the Applecross Community Company (ACC) with support from the Communities Housing Trust (CHT). The homes will be managed by CHT on behalf of ACC and are offered at an affordable rent level.
Since its establishment in 2008, ACC has delivered a range of community benefit projects with the aim of improving the resilience, sustainability and prosperity of the Applecross community.
The site for these new homes was purchased by ACC from NHS Highland in 2020, with support from the Scottish Land Fund. The project’s construction has been supported by the Rural Housing Fund, SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Applecross’ community-owned hydro project Apple Juice. Kinellan Building Ltd were contracted to build the homes, which are also affordable to run, a key aspect in tackling fuel poverty.
HIE provided funding for the local development officer post at ACC, who led on the house building project. The community group also received expertise and support from HIE’s community assets team for their application to purchase the land, for a feasibility study and for future land development for affordable housing and community growing.
Ian Philp from HIE’s Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross area team, said: “We are really pleased to have supported ACC to help realise their aspirations for community-owned housing. We recognise the importance of the availability of affordable and energy efficient accommodation and we are delighted to see the ACC bring this ambitious project to fruition, which will bring many benefits to the community.”
Elderly residents or those with additional health needs and local connections to the area were prioritised for these accessible houses as a way to support the intergenerational sustainability of Applecross. Close to the GP surgery, the homes provide improved access to health facilities if needed, and NHS Highland was supportive from the outset. One of the homes is wheelchair accessible.
In addition to the An Toll Bàn properties, ACC will also be developing further affordable houses and community facilities on another site, which it is hoped will enable young folk and families to stay in the community.
Housing Secretary, Shona Robison said: “I am delighted to see the completion of these three accessible homes. We want everyone to have a safe, warm affordable home that meets their needs and by ensuring we have accessible homes, then people can live independently in their own home for longer in the community they wish to live. Community led projects, such as this, highlight the benefits that the Rural and Islands Housing Fund provides, and even a small number of homes can make a huge difference in our rural communities.”
Owen Kilbride, Chair of the Applecross Community Company, said “Tackling the crisis of affordable housing in Applecross is a priority for us and we are very excited to see local residents moving into their new homes. Our thanks goes out to NHS Highland, the funders who supported the project, and to CHT and Kinellan for completing the build on budget despite the pandemic’s uncertainties. This is only the start and we shall be building further affordable homes for our community in the coming years.”
Ronnie MacRae, CHT chief executive, said: “CHT are delighted to support ACC in providing these community-led homes, which will mean that older residents are better supported. Helping people of all ages stay within their community is crucial for the ongoing sustainability of rural areas. We’d particularly like to thank NHS Highland for their enthusiastic support for the project, and Scottish Government for their funding assistance. We’re looking forward to working with ACC on further housing projects.”
Alan Wilson, Director of Estates, Facilities & Capital Planning for NHS Highland, said: “NHS Highland is committed to supporting local communities and this is a great example of collaborative working between all the relative groups in providing much needed affordable housing for the area.”