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Lairg sees first new social housing in almost 30 years

A rural community in the far north of Scotland has welcomed the first new social housing in the village since the 1990s.
Lairg social housing

Albyn Housing Society, one of the largest social housing providers in the Highlands has completed the construction of a £2.3mn development of eight new specialist dwellings in Lairg.

The new housing comprises four two-bedroom wheelchair accessible bungalows and four one-bedroom Fit homes with stunning views of Loch Shin. The state-of-the-art Fit homes, pioneered by Albyn Housing Society as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, utilise predictive behaviour pattern sensors and harness artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The sensors share real-time information with family members, caregivers or key workers who have access permission. Yet unlike cameras, they still offer a high degree of privacy to their occupants. The technology allows tenants to be able to live independently in their own home for longer, relieving the strain on social care, which is often lacking, especially in rural areas like the Highlands.

The development is on derelict land which has lain empty since the demolition of the Sutherland Arms in 2007. The land has been donated by the local community group, Lairg Community Development Initiatives (LCDI).

Albyn, which has 3,800 homes in over 70 rural communities across the Highlands, used a local contractor, Compass Building & Construction Services, to deliver the new homes. Some tenants were able to move into their new home two months ahead of the schedule because Compass completed the project earlier than planned.

The development was made possible with £200,000 from Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, £600,000 from Albyn Housing Society, with the rest of the funding coming from the Scottish Government’s More Homes division and The Highland Council.

The completion of the four Fit homes in Lairg mean that there are now 33 of the cutting edge homes across the Highlands, including in Nairn, Dingwall and Inverness.

Kirsty Morrison, Group Chief Executive of Albyn Housing Society said: “A lack of social care provision is an issue right across the country, but this is especially acute in the Highlands because of demographic changes and fewer social care workers. Our Fit homes mean residents can live in their own home, independently, for longer and often helps them remain in their local community too. This is such a help in rural areas like Lairg where alternative social care provision can be very far away.

“We have surpassed our promise made as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal by delivering 33 Fit Homes, mobilising a total investment of £6.9mn, which includes £3mn directly from the City Region Deal.

“The incredible partnership in Lairg between the local community who donated the land, Compass who did such a fantastic job ahead of schedule, our funders, and Albyn’s Fit homes technology, has delivered a brilliant asset for the village and those living there. This achievement not only grants independence to our tenants but also offers their families peace of mind.”

“Our development is the first social homes to be built in the area in almost 30 years which will mean fewer people are forced to move away for adequate housing. Continuing to invest in housing in very rural areas remains a top priority for Albyn.”

Housing Minister, Paul McLennan, said:

“I am delighted that this development of homes and specialist accessible properties, which was supported by £1.27mn of Scottish Government investment, has completed. These homes will have a positive impact on the community in Lairg, allowing people to safely live in their own homes for longer.

“Good quality housing is essential to attract and retain people in our rural communities. Our commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes, of which at least 70% will be for social rent and 10% in our rural and island communities, is backed up by our Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan.

“Demand led funds such as the £30mn Rural and Island Housing Fund and the Rural Affordable Homes for Key Workers Fund are key elements of our approach to addressing specific rural housing issues where they arise.”

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