The following article was published in the Rainbow Bridge – the weekly  newsletter of the Findhorn Foundation Community:

The cover of the first RB of last year announced 2016 as ‘The Year of Affordable Housing’. While, with a subject like this, there is clearly so much still to do, much has been already achieved by many people working on the cause -and it feels important to notice and celebrate this. In the early months of last year, a joint working group of PET directors (Jonathan Chuter and Fasil Bogale) and the Listener/Conveners, held the first phase. This included a ‘Visioning’ afternoon attended by a wide cross-section of the Community in February, and a Community meeting that focussed on the relationship between security of accommodation, and sense of belonging/engagement in the Community.

Through some very quick joined-up thinking (Thank you Jonathan and Anna Kovasna!) the CCWG Community Survey contained a series of questions about housing which gave us a lot of important information about the housing situation of individuals, and the perceived need of a collective focus on the issue. 94.4% of the 339 respondents said that there needs to be more affordable housing for rent at The Park. 108 respondents said that they would personally be interested in renting such housing: a powerful remit indeed. This was all brought together in the presentation made to those that attended “the Gather-In” on 14 May 2016, where it was reported that:

PET had progressed the concept for the flats on West Whins – responding to the perceived need and the demographics of the people interested in renting. With the vision of 25 community owned homes by 2025 (an invocation made at the Building for the Future event in February 2015) a financial strategy was needed to put affordable housing on a sustainable footing. And we wanted to complement the relatively big East Whins homes to have a wider range of properties in the portfolio. All this pointed to small one bed-room flats for the WW cluster. GreenLeaf Build and Design – a local, young builder – presented the concept. (For those interested, a copy of the presentation will be uploaded onto the NFA website.)

WW flats went into the planning stage – supported by the community, approved by PPG submitted to Moray Council. Planning permission was granted on 15th September. We expect to commence construction in March for completion date in November 2017 – perhaps in time for the 55th Birthday?!

Alongside this, we also needed to turn our attention to the allocation criteria for the flats. The last substantial community consultation about allocation criteria was in 2011. Alex Walker (Ekopia), Ian Rippon (chair of Land and Housing Trust allocation committee) and Cornelia Featherstone (Housing focaliser for PET) created a working group and planned a three tier process to involve as many in the community as possible. The online survey was designed by Ilona Kaestner and 189 community members participated. The results were ‘digested’ by a focus group of a dozen people in August and then presented to a well attended community meeting on 3rd October where the process added another important emphasis and passed the criteria. The allocation committee will now implement those criteria and develop the point system which has been strongly supported by the community. The next allocation process is expected to take place for the WW flat starting Mid April.

Another outcome of the survey was the Manifestation Circle, focalised by Margo van Greta, which meets once a month to meditate and support the graceful manifestation of the WW flats and affordable housing in general. And indeed there has been a lot of grace and significant manifestation already. Please contact Margo if you feel drawn to join the group. PET decided on a funding strategy prioritising borrowing within the community, through Ekopia and private loans in conjunction with an application to the Scottish Rural Housing Fund (RHF). That grant application was successful and the Scottish Ministers are supporting our project with £130,000. The funding package got a huge boost when two community members stepped forward and offered PET their pension fund as a loan (total £140,000) and another came to Ekopia offering £100,000. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

The Moray Art Centre offered PET exhibition space at the ‘Community, Home and Culture’ event during the Findhorn Bay Festival – thank you Blythe!!! Cornelia took on designing the concept: as the WW flats are ‘tiny houses’ she set out to explore the concept of tiny houses, worldwide, and here in the community past-present and future. The long-term caravan renters joined in with their vision for a tiny-house hamlet. The exhibition was done on a shoestring and many community members were involved – Dave Till, Jay Dalton, Catrina Millar (caravan dwellers), Cornelia was joined by Roger Doudna, Graham Meltzer, and Rowan Duczek as master wallpaper panel creators. The exhibition got a lot of positive comments and many visitors and community members were inspired. It was complemented by GreenLeaf showing their build technique and fascinating time-lapse record of the WW terrace going up. (A record of the exhibition will also be made available on the NFA website)

We are blessed with some deeply committed individuals in our Community, who have helped to get us to this current point with regard to Affordable Housing, but we strongly believe that to champion this now and in the future, requires the establishment of some form of ‘Housing Circle’ which would (amongst other things):

  • Co-ordinate and communicate a shared vision in decision-making around housing
  • Identify future opportunities for affordable/available housing in the area
  • Look at, and develop, funding opportunities
  • Maintain a history of affordable housing projects within our Community, and lessons learned.

It’s possible that such a Circle could develop out of the next stage of the Community Change process, but if not, watch out for notices of invitations to future meetings, and think about what your part in this may be…

Together we can achieve a lot! Thank you!!!!

Community Blessing of the site on Wed 22nd February – thank you for all who were there in person and in spirit.