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Reflecting on the Supporting Sustainable Communities conference

The Rural Islands and Highlands Housing Association Forum (RIHAF) met last week in Stirling for its annual conference. 

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The Rural Islands and Highlands Housing Association Forum (RIHAF) met last week in Stirling for its annual conference. The conference theme, ‘Building Sustainable Communities,’ focussed on the interconnectivity between housing, health, care, and local economies. Delegates met over two days to debate actions needed across sectors to help deliver places that meet people’s needs and aspirations, with a focus on the capacity for affordable housing options to attract and retain diverse populations.

RIHAF members began with a study tour of the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre, which researches and provides resources on care provision and environmental design to improve the lives of people living with dementia. The visit included a tour of model bedrooms and kitchen/living rooms that help support healthy living for people with dementia. The tour provided a practical introduction to the conference theme of working together to keep people living independently and in their communities, where possible.  

Housing Minister Paul McLennan kicked off the conference with a keynote covering the Scottish Government’s activity to integrate housing agendas with net zero, care, and wellbeing agendas to increase the quality of life for people in communities across Scotland. His address outlined plans introduced in the recent Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan and referenced incoming Housing Bill legislation. Comprehensive discussion with delegates after the address ranged from Scottish Government’s rural and affordable housing targets, support to aids and adaptations, and pressures of anticipated energy efficiency and building standards, among others.

We were delighted the also welcome Angie Wood, Director of Social Care and Improvement at Scottish Government, as the keynote speaker on day two. Delegates heard updates on plans for a National Care Service and debated its aims and structural proposals. Ms. Wood emphasised the importance of adequate housing in meeting the needs of the nation’s care aims and discussed opportunities for increased partnership between RSLs and the care sector.

Other sessions explored Tech in housing, community-led housing partnerships, support to survivors of domestic abuse, accessibility, and interactive student sessions on designing homes for healthy ageing.

RIHAF Development of the Year

Congratulations to Eildon Housing Association on winning the Development of the Year award at RIHAF 2023 for its Poynder Apartments development in Kelso.Eildon’s Cathie Fancy and Neil Wilson-Prior were presented with the award by Lochaber’s Di Alexander and SFHA Chair Dougie Mackie.

Eildon's Property Assets Director Neil Wilson-Prior said, “It is an honour to receive this award which means so much, being chosen by our fellow peers and partner agencies.  Poynder Apartments has been a landmark development for Eildon.  We wanted to preserve its rich heritage, give it a new lease of life and bring back its community spirit.   It is now back to being a living and breathing space. Tenants have now moved into their extra care flats and 35 new jobs have been created. The building is now a hive of activity, offering lots of social opportunities and local partnership working, in our community hub space.”

“This £7.3M development was only made possible thanks to joint investment – a grant of £2.8m from the Scottish Government, £0.75m from Scottish Borders Council and £3.75m from Eildon Housing as well as the skills and dedication of all involved - architects Aitken Turnbull, local builders M&J Ballantyne, and services from Langmuir & Hay.”

Thanks to all who joined us at the conference to make it an excellent event.

Stay tuned for information on next year’s event! The RIHAF conference is open to both rural and urban interests and all are welcome to attend. Copies of this year’s presentations are available to access and have been shared with delegates. 

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