University welcomes ‘major’ funding boost for co-housing build

ROBERT Gordon University (RGU) has welcomed a ‘major’ funding boost for a project to create a co-housing development for older people in Orkney.

Hope Co-Housing has been awarded over £48,000 from the Inspiring Scotland’s Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund to establish the country’s only entirely rental co-housing scheme at St. Margaret’s Hope in South Ronaldsay.

The project has been designed in partnership with a multi-disciplinary team from the Aberdeen university who worked in collaboration with the Hope Co-Housing Community Group and Orkney Islands Council.

Six affordable, low energy, modern homes would be created through the project with each being specially adapted with shared communal areas for recreational and creative activities, as well as a shared garden to encourage older people to live independently.

The overriding aim of the project is to support people to age ‘positively’ and to create social housing that will support health and wellbeing, activity and community engagement as people age. RGU said this would tackle issues surrounding social isolation, loneliness, and fuel poverty.

Lead architect for the project, Professor Gokay Deveci from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at Robert Gordon University, in partnership with Orkney Islands Council and Hope Cohousing, successfully attracted a £10,000 funding grant in 2019 from the Scottish Government Islands Housing Fund to after carry out a feasibility study.

Professor Deveci said, “The new funding grant from Scotland’s Rural Communities Ideas Action Fund offers a real boost for the Hope-Co-housing project in Orkney.

“Working in partnership with Hope Co-housing, we recognise there is a real need to create affordable, sustainable homes for older people to create a lasting community benefit.   Orkney has an ageing population and one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. There is also a shortage of affordable private-sector housing, exacerbated by second home ownership.

“This project would address Orkney’s socio-economic needs and offer a new sustainable housing design based around technology that supports active ageing. With co-housing still in its infancy in the UK, RGU’s research and the Hope Co-housing scheme could be used as a blue-print for other community-led housing projects in rural and island locations.  This would combat the social isolation that many people feel in rural and remote areas.

“It is fantastic that the Hope Co-housing project has been offered this funding grant and we are a step closer to achieving this innovative social project which will enable residents to remain independent for longer.”

Jenny Rambridge, director of Hope Cohousing, said, “We are delighted to have received this funding grant and to be in a position to move forward with the pre-construction costs for St. Margaret’s Hope. There is so much community backing for the project, and it is great to have the support from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at RGU and Orkney Islands Council.”