April 7, 2020
Although significant resources have been allocated to tackle the rural housing crisis, one of the anomalies of the system is that housing need has to be clearly demonstrated before these affordable housing projects can proceed – and for obvious reasons that can cause problems. If people aren’t prepared to live in tents or caravans as a signal that they want to live in a given place it becomes very difficult to establish a clear picture of local housing need. On the island of Colonsay, the community are working on a creative solution to this conundrum with a half-way housing measure.
Resourceful islanders on Colonsay are looking at turning a former Baptist manse into temporary housing.
There are currently 11 families on the housing waiting list. Some without a roof of their own are having to rely on the goodwill of others and living in caravans.
The Baptist Union of Scotland put the manse on the market and agreed to sell it to Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) if it got the money.
The first round of funding has come through from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) and the project is now waiting for the second level.
The idea is the manse could be used as a stop-gap by giving people a three to four month lease.
Plan B, if the funding does not come through, could be to get a mortgage, said CCDC development worker Roz Jewell.
The start of a long-awaited and much-needed new community-led housing and business unit development has also been announced by CCDC after the Scottish Land Fund awarded £395,000 towards buying land.
A substantial award from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) also helped towards the total amount needed and industry partner MOWI, which operates a salmon farm off the coast of Colonsay, also made a significant contribution.
HIE and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust have supported CCDC for the last two years to help buy land at Scalasaig from Colonsay Estate making way for a phased construction of new, affordable mixed tenure homes and business premises.
A survey showed an immediate requirement for 11 new homes just to meet existing housing demand but more are needed to build a sustainable community.
Land towards the south of the public road that runs between the harbour and the church was identified for the housing as well as extra business space to add to the units near the village hall and shop.
‘We are so excited to have secured SLF stage 2 funding at what is a crucial moment for Colonsay. Having been born and raised on the island, I’ve grown up watching a community of volunteers working so hard to sustain and protect the island for the likes of myself and my brother. Had it not been for a community-led social housing project nearly 20 years ago, it’s unlikely we would have had the opportunity to stay here as kids. We know first hand the difference projects like this make,’ said Caitlin McNeill, CCDC director.
And Alex Howard from Colonsay Estate added: ‘It is vital for the continued economic success of the Colonsay community that there is adequate modern affordable housing available for those seeking to make their lives on the island. The inward investment onto Colonsay will benefit
the wider community. The estate is now able to complete the development of five industrial units which will be available to small businesses on the island. The estate looks forward to continuing to work together with CCDC in the future for the benefit of the Colonsay community.’
One of those hoping to get a new home is fishfarm worker Liam McNeill who has already had to leave the island once because of no accommodation. He is now back on the island living with his dad.
‘Being away from the island was not great. I was working two weeks on and two weeks off at the fishfarm. When I wasn’t here working, I had to live in Stirling because there was nowhere here,’ he said.