Staffin affordable housing development crowdfunding campaign goes live

THE FIRST ever ‘crowdfunding’ campaign in Skye to build affordable homes and a new medical clinic will be launched by a community organisation this week (6.9.19).

A four-minute film highlighting the challenges faced by Staffin, in the north-east of the island, in retaining and attracting families and young people will be released to publicise the campaign, 20 years after the last affordable housing development opened in the community.

And the Staffin Community Trust (SCT) will urge Hollywood production companies – which have shot big-budget movies like ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Prometheus’ locally in recent years – to support the fundraising drive.

SCT hopes to commence the construction of six three-bedroom family homes, the clinic and business units at a site close to Bun Sgoil Stafainn in early 2020.

The community organisation and its partners, the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association (LSHA), are working hard to secure the funding for the development in a challenging financial climate.

SCT secured a significant Scottish Land Fund grant in 2018 and is now embarking on an innovative way to help close the funding turning to crowdfunding. It is an increasingly popular practice of securing money for a project by asking for contributions from a large number of people and organisations typically, but not exclusively, via the internet.

SCT is seeking to reach a target of £46,000 which would be spent directly on construction costs – specifically the foundations for the new houses and the walls and roof of the new clinic.

There is a chronic shortage of affordable accommodation for younger people and families in Staffin with high property market prices and the community has suffered a significant population decline in the last decade, with the school roll also shrinking.

SCT and NHS Highland have an agreement about the relocation of the current Staffin surgery to the new site. SCT will buy the existing surgery – which dates back to the 1950s – so it can be converted into an affordable home.

Andrew Whitehead in the film.

The project also includes a business unit and a workshop/storage base.

SCT is hopeful the new housing will help increase the school roll and the community’s long-term sustainability will be enhanced greatly by the new modern health facility and business space for existing firms or new start-ups.

Portree-based film producer Hugh Campbell shot the film at the new site, in the school, Staffin Stores, Columba 1400 Centre and existing surgery.

SCT intends to seek support from production companies who have filmed in Staffin recently for films, commercials and music videos. Pop singer Harry Styles’ debut video ‘Sign of the Times’ was shot near Staffin Slipway and the Storr Lochs last year – it has now been watched more than half a billion times online.

SCT will also seek support from tourism orientated businesses who frequently visit Staffin with their customers – and its far-flung Taobh Sear diaspora, with plans to share the film in North America and Australasia.

The Staffin development is included in Sir Lewis Ritchie’s independent report on out-of-hours health care provision in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross.

SCT has received nine expressions of interest in the new homes from local families and couples. Two of the properties will be owned by SCT, two by HSCHT and two by LSHA and they will be a range of mixed housing tenure.

There is strong community support for the much-needed development.

SCT development officer Hugh Ross said: “SCT development officer Hugh Ross said: “The campaign film spells out the challenges faced in progressing this development and the benefits it will deliver, hopefully it will persuade viewers to support a community-led project.”

Martin Perry, Staffin Hall Community Association chairman, said: “Staffin as a community and SCT in particular have been battling for years to provide affordable housing to encourage the younger generation to stay. Whilst we cannot affect the price of the housing in the current market, what we can do is to build affordable and sustainable housing for the younger generation. It is particularly important that the younger generation inherits a sustainable community and continues the work that current volunteers in the trust, the community council and the community hall committee currently do. None of us are getting any younger, we need continuity – we need youngsters.”

Staffin Community Council chairman John MacKenzie said: “As a rural community it is important that we find ways and means of attracting families into the area. Staffin has lots to offer in terms of environment, tourism and so on. However, in the current climate it is a struggle for many to afford a house in order to stay in our area so these new houses are a necessity in order to get more families into our area to support our school and wider community. The new surgery has long been overdue. The possibility of businesses being able to set up in one of the units means the potential for new jobs for young and old and hopefully a boost to our local economy. Overall this project can only be a benefit to Staffin; there are no negatives.”

SCT would like to thank Andrew Whitehead and Caroline MacKenzie for being interviewed in the film and to Bun Sgoil Stafainn, Staffin Stores and Columba 1400 for their support.