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May 6, 2015

Housing by and for the community

If the experience of the community based housing movement has taught us anything it is that local people are not only capable of delivering high quality public services, but that they are also highly effective at managing and developing assets on a large scale. It’s perplexing that this model has not continued to expand since its heyday in the 1980’s. Perhaps the recent success of Helmsdale will inspire other rural communities with severe housing need to take those first few steps.



Community owned projects are helping increase the number of affordable homes in the Highlands. Helmsdale & District Development Trust (HDDT) is spearheading a new community led housing development having built four new homes in the Highland village of Helmsdale, backed by £110,000 of Scottish Government investment. Local people have also been heavily involved in shaping plans within the development, as well as the overall priorities the Trust has for the area.

During her visit to Helmsdale, the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess met with one of the new tenants Mrs Amy Withey at the Rockview Place project. Mrs Burgess said “Housing is at the heart of this Government’s ambition to create a fairer and more prosperous country. In the Highlands, Helmsdale and District Development Trust is an excellent example of housing development led by the community for the community. It is great to see not just homes being built, but a wider community being invigorated too.


“As we’ve seen with Helmsdale who are an inspiration to other communities the funding from

Scottish Government has enabled access to affordable housing that they have been desperately in

need of and at the same time it has created economic and employment benefits for local companies and contractors.”


“We are committed to the provision of affordable housing across Scotland – working flexibly in partnership, and using innovative approaches to maximise investment.”

Ruth Whittaker, Chairperson of HDDT, commented: “We are delighted and honoured to welcome Mrs Burgess here today, to perform the official opening ceremony of the Helmsdale & District Community Owned Housing Project. Although the homes were actually completed in perfect time for local families to move in just before Christmas 2014, we see the Minister’s visit as an acknowledgement of this community’s tenacity in addressing its housing needs.

“It is significant that our success with this innovative project is now inspiring similar community groups to emulate our pioneering delivery model.”

Calum Macaulay, Chief Executive at Albyn Housing Society, said: “By supporting Helmsdale and District Development Trust with this ambitious and rewarding project, the Trust has been able to deliver four much needed quality new homes for Helmsdale. This innovative scheme not only addresses local housing need, it will provide an effective and sustainable income stream that will support and sustain community initiatives for many years to come. Today’s handover marks an achievement the people of Helmsdale can be justly proud of, and we wish it every success. We also sincerely hope it will inspire other groups to pursue similar community-led projects throughout the Highlands and beyond.”


Pete Guthrie, Head of Strengthening Communities for HIE in Caithness and Sutherland, commented: “Helmsdale and District Development Trust is an excellent example of what ambitious communities can achieve when working together with HIE’s support.  For several years HIE has provided a wide ranging programme of assistance to the community of Helmsdale, including a full time Local Development Officer.”

Graeme Galloway, Relationship Manager, Triodos Bank NV, commented: “Triodos is delighted to have provided loan finance to Helmsdale & District Development Trust to allow the development of much needed affordable housing within the local area. This project included the support of many organisations and our loan was coupled with grants, enterprise funds and public money. The Bank’s involvement with the client was from an early stage and we worked closely together to allow this scheme to work. Triodos Bank is always interested in working with small community groups to assist with housing projects, particularly where there is a proven need for modern, affordable housing in the locality.”