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Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2015: Day one
Monday, 23 November 2015 14:33

The Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference, sponsored by Edison Energy, took place from Thursday 29–Friday 30 October at the Macdonald Aviemore resort.

A pre-conference study tour of some of conference host Albyn Housing Society's housing stock took place on Wednesday 28 October.

The conference, entitled 'What Next for Rural and Island Housing', began with a plenary session featuring Mary Taylor, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), and David Bell, Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling. The session looked at the future of social housing, the Scotland Bill and the new powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and their implications for the social housing sector.

conference welcome

Pictured: RIHAF Chair Ken Ward with SFHA Chief Executive Mary Taylor and Professor David Bell.

Dr Taylor explained that there was dispute between the political parties regarding to what extent the Scotland Bill had met the Smith Commission Agreement which was published on 27 November 2014 and detailed further devolution to the Scottish Parliament.

Key areas of the Scotland Bill for the SFHA and social landlords are those that affect welfare and energy. The housing element of Universal Credit will be devolved to Scotland, and Dr Taylor said that this should hopefully allow for the administration to be improved. The power to design and implement schemes to reduce fuel poverty could help address Scotland's particular energy efficiency needs and different house types.

Moving forward towards the Holyrood elections, Dr Taylor said that the SFHA would continue to press the case, to all political parties, for 12,000 new affordable homes a year. This figure was identified through research into housing need in Scotland which was carried out in partnership with Shelter Scotland and CIH Scotland. She urged RIHAF members to campaign too and lobby their own MSPs.

Professor David Bell looked at the new tax powers which will be devolved to Scotland. He explained that the new fiscal framework and the block grant changes are still very unclear, and the landscape that lies ahead will be tricky to navigate.

The afternoon's session focused on community empowerment, with presentations by Professor Sarah Skerratt, Head of the Land Economy and Environment Research Group and Director of SRUC's Rural Policy Centre, and Hughie Donaldson, Community Assets Sector – Development Manager, at the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

sarah presentation

Professor Skerrat explored the Community Empowerment Act and the ways in which it might help people who live in rural housing areas. She questioned whether or not the Act would only further empower those who are already empowered rather than those who are not.

Highlighting the fact that young people often leave rural and island communities due to a lack of housing and jobs, Mr Donaldson said that in order to try and solve this issue, good quality, warm, affordable housing needs to be available for young people.

RIHAF Annual General Meeting
Monday, 23 November 2015 14:36

RIHAF's Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place at the end of the conference's proceedings on Thursday 29 October. Minutes of the previous year's AGM were approved and Martin Pollhammer's Treasurer's Report was passed by the members.

The election of the office bearers took place. Prior to the conference, RIHAF Chair Owen McKee stood down, and at the AGM, Ken Ward, previously Vice Chair, was elected as the forum's new Chair. Sally Inkster stepped down as Secretary due to retiring as Chief Executive of Orkney Housing Association. Jo Voisey of Trust will be the new Secretary, while Martin Pollhammer remains as Treasurer. The role of Vice Chair is still vacant, please email Jo Voisey jvoisey@trustha.org.uk if you are interested in the role.

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Pictured: RIHAF Treasurer Martin Pollhammer with Sally Inkster and RIHAF Chair Ken Ward.

Mr Pollhammer thanked Ms Inkster for her service and presented her with a gift.

RIHAF Chair Ken Ward said:

"Once again, we have had an excellent and well attended conference, with stimulating contributions at our plenaries and workshops. It is a great credit to Martin and Sally for their organisational skills on behalf of RIHAF.

"Sally's departure as Secretary will be a great loss to us and a hard act to follow. She has given RIHAF a tremendous level of service over a number of years, and I am sure we all wish her well in whatever direction she chooses to follow with her future.

"We will hopefully keep in touch with Sally, and, who knows, our paths may cross again. In the meantime, she goes with our very best wishes and grateful thanks from all in RIHAF."

Sally Inkster said:

"It has been an enormously rewarding experience, as RIHAF Secretary, being a part of the SFHA's rural voice. The forum has taken every opportunity to raise awareness of the rural perspective with policy and decision makers. Under the chairmanship of Di Alexander, RIHAF was pivotal in the development of a Minimum Income Standard for Rural Scotland.

"We built on the reputation of the RIHAF annual conference, and, as a result of its growth, we introduced the biennial study tours which offer an invaluable opportunity to share experiences and knowledge.

"I suspect that housing associations are unique in the way that they work together and support each other, and nowhere is this more evident than in the rural and island areas of Scotland.

"The collective skills and knowledge within RIHAF is awesome, and I am sad to be leaving it. I am delighted to be handing over to Jo Voisey who I know will cope admirably with the important task of 'keeping the boys in line'.

"I will miss all the friends and colleagues I have got to know over the years and wish the forum continued success and influence in the future."

RIHAF's objectives for 2015/16 were also agreed upon. They are as follows:

1. Continue to raise the profile of RIHAF, ensuring RIHAF remains a focal point for enabling and promoting discussion around rural and island housing issues.

2. Ensure the Minimum Income Standard research is kept up to date, working in partnership where required to achieve this and, if possible, further developed in terms of regional variation and local housing markets.

3. Highlight and promote the economic and social importance of affordable housing in sustaining rural and island communities.

4. Lobby for an equitable share of Scottish Government investment in rural and island areas whilst undertaking research into public investment based on Scottish Government data.

5. Lobby for a type of funding which realistically reflects the higher costs of building, managing and maintaining affordable and sustainable housing in rural and island communities.

6. Review opportunities for forum members to meet, learn and share ideas, ensuring the annual conference, in particular, remains well-attended and commercially viable.

7. Where there are specific rural or island impacts, support RIHAF members in dealing with the impacts of welfare reform.

Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference 2015: Day two
Monday, 23 November 2015 14:55

The second day of the Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference began with a session on land reform by Stephen Pathirana, Head of Land and Tenancy Reform Unit, Scottish Government, and Drew McFarland Slack, Highlands and Islands Regional Manager, Scottish Land and Estates.

Mr Pathirana looked at the Land Reform (Scotland Bill) and explained the content and purpose of the legislation and what it will mean for landlords.

There are three specific recommendations for new housing:

• encouraging and supporting the development of a vibrant self-build sector should be an explicit aim of housing strategy in Scotland;

• the establishment of a Housing Land Corporation, a new national body charged with the acquisition and development of sufficient land to fully achieve its objectives;

• explicit performance targets for the Housing Land Corporation that recognise the specific needs of small rural communities and an extended operational role to enable these to be addressed.

Mr McFarland Slack said that, in order to increase housing supply, more than just legislation is needed, and he called for increased co-operation between organisations such as housing associations, and landowners. He said:

"Land reform may help to increase housing supply, but it's not a panacea. It needs to be part of joined up thinking."

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Pictured: Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority.

The second plenary explored how other agencies view working with social landlords and how joint working can be improved. The first presenter was Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority. Mr Moir detailed the housing challenges in the context of the national park area. He pointed to the issues such as land prices, infrastructure costs, unit sizes, holiday homes, who can develop on land and national heritage constraints. Mr Moir said that it was vital that the working relationships between organisations, such as Cairngorms National Park Authority and housing associations, were formalised in order to address issues and deliver solutions.

David Goldie, Head of Housing at the Highland Council, said that councils and housing associations share many common issues, such as land and infrastructure costs, and called for closer working relationships to achieve common goals.

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Pictured: Alan Cochrane, David Clegg, Lesley Riddoch and Iain MacWhirter.

The conference concluded with a political panel session chaired by Hamish MacDonnell, former Political Editor of The Scotsman, and featuring Alan Cochrane, Scottish Editor at The Telegraph; Iain MacWhirter, columnist at The Herald and Sunday Herald; David Clegg, Political Editor at Daily Record; and Lesley Riddoch, Scotsman and National columnist. The session reflected on the current political landscape in Scotland and how this affects social landlords and their tenants.

Living it up
Monday, 23 November 2015 14:57

At the RIHAF meeting on Wednesday 28 October, a presentation on Living it Up was given by Elaine Booth, Community Engagement Officer.

Living it Up is a health, wellbeing and self-management website for people over 50 in Scotland who may be living with long-term conditions.

 living it up logo

The site hosts everything from localised event information, tools and technology to help with monitoring health, to videos and support to find new hobbies.

The initiative is currently active in five areas across Scotland: Forth Valley, Highland, Argyll and Bute, Lothian, Moray, and the Western Isles, and hopes to cover the rest of Scotland soon.

Although aimed at the over 50s, Living it Up aims to help those with long-term health conditions, care givers and anyone who wants to improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

By using familiar technology, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, users of Living it Up are able to access innovative and trusted health, care and wellbeing services, local information, volunteering opportunities, peer support, new hobbies and more. The aim is to make communities feel better connected and more in control of their own health – no matter where they live.

You can find out more about Living it Up on the website www.livingitup.org.uk

Living it Up is supported by NHS24 and the Scottish Government.


Produced by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations on behalf of RIHAF members.
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Welcome to the official homepage for the Rural & Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF).

The Forum represents the interests of widely dispersed and disparate social landlords working in remote rural communities as well as those on the periphery of towns.

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