Affordable housing is becoming a major issue in many Scottish communities, including Comrie. A local Comrie resident, Aisling Brady, arranged an initial meeting with PKC and the Community Housing Trust (CHT) to look at how we, as a community, might be able to address this.
The meeting was held at Comrie Croft on the 28th June. It was attended by a wide range of the community, together with Campbell Hall from PKC and Joe Gribben from the Communities Housing Trust.
Joe Gribben and Campbell Hall spoke about their work across a number of sites with other communities looking to address their affordable housing problem. These include Kinloch Rannoch, Aberfeldy and Dunkeld and Birnam. Dunkeld and Birnam’s PH8 Community Matters have just completed their housing needs and demand public survey with the support of CHT and PKC, and there are opportunities for our community to learn from their process. I believe Kinloch Rannoch are completing 12 houses soon, and Aberfeldy have begun work in renovating existing buildings for affordable rent. Joe Gribben mentioned a number of other CHT projects across Scotland which may provide parallels or opportunities for advice for Comrie.
Campbell Hall and Joe Gribbens confirmed that they would be happy for Comrie to be the next community to receive their support (funding, technical advice etc.) for a community-led affordable housing scheme, if we can organise ourselves accordingly. The first step of this would be a housing need and demand assessment. However, a community consultation using the ‘place standard tool’ could run parallel and would provide vital support for future planning applications, as it will hopefully provide evidence of community support and alignment with community ideals. The need and demand assessment would be followed by a feasibility study for appropriate sites for the housing (Campbell Hall confirmed this can also be funded by PKC). Whilst CHT will provide us with all the information and support we need to complete the housing needs and demand assessment (and any further community consultation required), we will have to do the groundwork as a community to make this happen. Whilst this has its challenges, this is also a unique opportunity for the community to define what sort of affordable housing is provided (e.g. rented, self-build plots, social housing, co-housing, rejuvenation of vacant sites, affordable homes for sale) and to ensure that it is benefiting people who will help Comrie thrive.
The funded support of CHT is a superb opportunity given their track record and expertise. It may allow us to access funds we wouldn’t otherwise, broker partnerships with landowners, and will ensure we can be successful in the planning process. Working with established community groups would help speed up the process.
As such, it was suggested that Comrie Development Trust’s ‘Community Land’ group might represent the most appropriate community group to lead on this from the community side, with CDT being the budget holder for ongoing work. Confirmation from the CDT board would be required that they are happy to go ahead with this, and for the Community Land group to focus on this. The need for a funded project coordinator to push this project along was also discussed. Campbell Hall mentioned funding being available for this via PKC, if CDT were agreeable to apply. However, the initial consultation work can and should begin before that funded position is agreed – this project is likely to take up to 5/6 years (all things being equal) and the sooner we hit the ground running, the better. That being said, there may also be some quick wins with the renovation of vacant/derelict sites for rent or sale and my understanding is that self-build opportunities could be organised more quickly too.
The main actions from the meeting were:
- PKCs next generation Local Development Plan is scheduled over the next couple of years. Comrie needs to develop a local Place Plan to feed in to this. Potentially this is something the Community Council should be involved in as it sets an overall strategy for the local community, encompassing many of the things we already cover – A good resource on Place Plans: ourplace.scot/home/local-place-plans;
- Carry out a local Housing Needs and Demand survey. This covers current and potential residents together with local businesses to assemble evidence of the need for more affordable housing – CHT can assist with this;
- Create/identify a housing group to coordinate and manage the entire process. It was largely agreed that the CDT would be ideal for this since it already exists and has a track record on local developments.
If anyone is interested in getting involved with this initiative, please email me at email@example.com