The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust receives empty homes funding from the Nationwide Foundation

The Nationwide Foundation is giving £120,000 to a charitable organisation in the Scottish Highlands which will create affordable housing for local, low income families. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) will use the Nationwide Foundation's funding to bring back into use two empty homes which are currently uninhabitable. Once renovated, these properties will then be rented at an affordable rate.

This funding given as a combination of grant and social investment is part of the Nationwide Foundation's Decent, Affordable Homes strategy which is investing £725,000 into empty homes projects across the UK, resulting in up to 60 new homes.

Throughout the Highlands there are many homes which remain empty. By working through the process of bringing these empty properties into use, HSCHT aims to identify the technical, legislative, statutory and financial challenges and make recommendations for solutions which will allow more empty homes to be brought into use in rural Scottish communities.

The project is a collaboration led by HSCHT which is leasing one of the two properties from the Acharacle Community Company. Unemployed trainees aged between 16 and 24 years, will gain qualifications in the building trade by working in conjunction with Inverness College and it is hoped this will lead to paid employment.

The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust CEO Ronnie MacRae said that the project has the potential to make a significant impact on the affordable housing market in Scotland.

"HSCHT is really excited to be involved in this project. Empty homes are a long standing issue across the Highlands and indeed nationally. It is a credit to the Nationwide Foundation for providing funding to tackle these problems.

"The support received will allow us to probe, through two live projects in rural communities, the issues that are preventing more renovations from taking place. We will be looking at the impact of current regulations and VAT on the feasibility of renovations for affordable housing and identifying potential cost effective methods to enable further empty properties to be brought into use as affordable homes. The information gathered will also be used to inform the debate and support further lobbying for amendments to existing legislation and financial support which may encourage action to bring more empty homes into use, especially for affordable homes.

"We are extremely grateful to the Nationwide Foundation for working so proactively and innovatively with us, to deliver a finance model that will provide affordable homes for the communities we work in and improve their environment by renovating long standing empty properties."

Leigh Pearce, the Nationwide Foundation's interim chief executive says: "It is unacceptable that there is a shortage of affordable homes in the Scottish Highlands, while at the same time there are many empty properties which could be used. The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust shares the Nationwide Foundation's commitment to bring empty properties into use for people in housing need and to look at solutions to the challenges which currently curtail more renovation in rural areas."

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