Affordable Housing

Centini houses in Findhorn

The provision of affordable housing that is eco-friendly has long been a concern within our community. There is also much interest in co-housing, and in co-operative ownership models.

In common with many rural areas of Scotland the Findhorn peninsula suffers from a significant shortage of affordable housing both to buy and to let.

In 2004, with the assistance of the Rural Housing Service and Development Trusts Association Scotland we conducted a survey of the local area to evaluate the level of housing need.

In 2006 the Ekopia Rules were amended to allow us to become registered as a ‘rural housing body’ with the Scottish Government.

Land & Housing Trust

This has been set up in partnership with other community stakeholders and aims to:
• Obtain amenity land to be held for collective benefit;
• Obtain finance to support those in housing need;
• Own affordable housing that can be rented or held in shared ownership;
• Provide policies so that allocations of housing support can be undertaken in an open, transparent and inclusive manner according to various agreed criteria.

The Allocations policy has the details. This sets the criteria for application for housing support awards that applies to all housing support.
Each cluster of housing has its own Housing Support Policy, which sits under this allocations policy and covers what type of housing support is available.

Other housing support opportunities are available from time to time. Please see community announcements for details.

Various other affordable housing units have been made available through this system. Below are examples.

Duneland

The Duneland site in Findhorn

Following a generous offer from Duneland Ltd. and the excellent fundraising work of the “Park Housing Co-op Project” various opportunities to support community-owned affordable housing have emerged.

These projects also require the formal support of the Moray Council housing department and we are delighted that this has been provided.

In the first phase Duneland made available four housing units at the East Whins cluster – 2 x 2-bedroom flats and 2 x 2-bedroom houses at a market value (averaged) of about £175,000 for both rentals and shared ownership.

This was paid for by:

  • Zero interest loans. Over £100,000 having been secured so far.
  • Grants and donations. We raised over £100,000 for the first 4 units.
  • By arrangement with the Moray Council a “Section 75” agreement worth up to £200,000 was made with Duneland that makes this money  available for community-owned housing.
  • A variable amount of the cost was provided by the occupier of the shared ownership houses.
  • Ekopia arranged interest bearing loan finance to cover the balance.

This was a huge opportunity for the community. Recent figures provided via the Scottish Governments “Neighbourhood Statistics” website show that the Findhorn peninsula is one of only four places in the Highlands and islands where houses in the cheapest quartile are 11 (eleven) or more times higher than average earnings.

This means that without some kind of support system, most of our younger members find it all but impossible to get onto the housing ladder. In addition, there is a strong commitment to providing accommodation for older community members in need of palliative care.

Park Ecovillage Trust is the delivery agent for these affordable homes. Having successfully completed this venture at East Whins, we anticipate using a similar system to support subsequent developments on Duneland and ultimately creating a diversity of community-owned property. There is now another opportunity at the adjacent West Whins cluster and we are actively exploring this.

Affordable Home Ownership At North Whins (Currently Unavailable)

We are delighted to announce that with the support of Duneland Ltd and the Rural Housing Fund six housing units have already been allocated at the Duneridge cluster, North Whins. The purchase price for these units will be reduced from market value by approximately 40%.

Woodside Housing Support (Currently Unavailable)

4 studios and 4 two-bedroom flats will become available for rent in June 2022 at the Woodside housing cluster at The Park, Findhorn. The rent levels are as agreed with the Scottish Rural Housing Fund and are controlled by Moray Council and/or the Scottish Government and the flats are owned and administered by Park Ecovillage Trust (PET). 

Two of the units are solely ground floor properties and could accommodate someone with health or care needs; however, it would be up to the applicant to assess the floor plans and design to gauge whether the property would be suitable for their particular needs.
All units have access to a common heating system and a communal laundry facility. All the units are designed to a high eco specification and should have low running costs.

Silvertrees Housing Support (Currently Unavailable)

West Whins Housing Support (Currently Unavailable)

East Whins Housing Support (Currently Unavailable)

 

 

See also: Investment Opportunities

Soillse Cluster

In 2006, with the generous support of Duneland Ltd. we negotiated the purchase of land at a discounted price that has enabled us to provide housing support to members of the Soillse cluster.

Station House

With the further assistance of Co-operative Development Scotland, we have also helped to create and turn into practical reality a new model for housing co-operatives through this project.

Station House

In 2007/2008, we received a grant from Co-operative Development Scotland to assist with the creation of a new model for co-operative housing.

In 2008 this enabled us to form Station House Co-operative Ltd, along with our associate organisation Ecovillage Partners LLP. This was for the purpose of purchasing the historic Station House, a seven unit property in Findhorn village.

The purchase of Station House was completed in November 2008, and the work undertaken has enabled £30,000 to be available to support the provision of low cost rents at this property.

We anticipate further projects using variations on this model coming to fruition in the future.

FAQs

The Allocations Policy states:
Awards of support from the Land & Housing Trust shall be made according to the following criteria.

Length of service to the community

This shall be measured by years of employment with or continuous part-time service (including paid self-employed status or recognised voluntary service) to any organisation affiliated with the Ecovillage project. In the case of individuals aged 65 or over, a prior demonstration of committed work shall be an acceptable criterion. Whether or not any given organisation has such an affiliation shall be determined by the Land & Housing Trust Committee from time to time.

For those not currently or historically connected to the community then being willing to demonstrate a commitment to the ethos of and being in service to the community upon taking up a tenancy shall be considered.

Financial Circumstances
Candidates are expected to make a full disclosure of their financial circumstances (such information to be held in confidence). The Committee shall take cognisance of the following criteria (the calculations for which appear in Appendix A and which shall be updated as required). This currently excludes those whose gross household income is:
• more than £29,500 for a single adult household.
• more than £37,500 for a 2 or more adult household.”

It also states:

“The following are criteria which shall disqualify any applicant.

1) One who is, or who has been in the 12 months prior to their application, a member of the Land & Housing Trust Committee. Where the Committee are advised of the development/rental schedule with less than 12 months notice, any Committee member wishing to apply shall immediately resign from the Committee.

2) One who is not or has never been resident in the counties of Moray and Nairn for at least six months.”

At the discretion of the Landlord, some candidates may be excluded if they have “a demonstrable history of unacceptable behaviour.”

The whole policy document is available on the Ekopia website:

We use an inflation indexed Scottish Government guideline. We would be at liberty to propose a change to the system although the Council would be concerned if we wanted something that was not broadly in line with their own housing needs assessments for the area.

Each housing support policy also comes with a detailed application form specific to the relevant property. Candidates then fill out this application form and return it to the landlord concerned along with references etc.

This has evolved as a two part process for the majority of assessments (it is a 3 part process where units are designed for people with health and care needs or with mobility issues)

  1. Landlord Screening

Applications are initially screened by the landlord, who assesses financial circumstances, past tenancy history and references.  Applicants who pass this screening are passed onto the next stage of assessment.

  1. Land and Housing Trust Assessment

A group, known as the Land and Housing Trust committee, is responsible for making decisions about affordable housing allocations. (See below for membership of the committee). There are a variety of different kinds of affordable housing available and each different type is described in a separate housing support policy which also describes the specific nature of such support.

  1. If required, a health and care needs assessment involving the Community Care Circle.

Associated with the application form there is a scoring sheet that identifies all the relevant criteria. The committee score the applications as individuals. Then the scores are shared at a meeting of the members and, after discussion, a final score is created.  This creates a ranked list of candidates.

There is then a process of attunement to decide who the successful applicants are.

The committee is made up of representatives from the Findhorn Foundation, New Findhorn Association and Ekopia, which committee members act independently of those bodies. Each organisation can nominate up to two members to the committee; irrespective of whether they nominate one or two members, each organisation only has one vote (or one score). We don’t publish the names of the committee members. This is not a strictly confidential matter but in the past committee members have been lobbied by applicants or those wishing to support an applicant, which is not appropriate for obvious reasons. This then is the current make-up of the committee. This may change in the future, as the main organisations in the community change over time.

Foundation employees past and present clearly have made a visible commitment to community life. It is also true that a significant percentage of community members who lived here for a longer period of time have at one point in their lives been FF employees. Furthermore, until quite recently Foundation members made up a significant percentage of all those employed in and by the community at large. Nonetheless we don’t think that Foundation employees make up an unduly high percentage of those allocated affordable accommodation all things considered.

The Foundation only has one vote on the committee (as do Ekopia and NFA). Per the explanation above, the scores are shared across the board and the final result is decided by attunement. If Foundation employees do end up getting a significant share of the accommodation it is then based on a wider perception of their housing need rather than any undue ability of the Foundation as an organisation to influence events.

The scoring system allows for points to be accumulated based on this so people who have been here a long time do score well in this regard. However, there is also a score for potential future contributions. This is a bit more subjective of course but we don’t think young people are at a disadvantage. In fact, for whatever reasons, relatively few applicants have been in the younger age group and we don’t believe they are under-represented relative to the number who have applied.