​In February 2015, Laggan Community Trading Company bought an ex-forestry house in the small community of Strathmashie. The semi-detached property had been left empty since it’s previous owner, an elderly man had moved into sheltered housing 2 years previously.

In this time, the property had been left to become increasingly neglected, and Laggan Community Trading Company became alarmed at the vast amount of work which was required to the property to bring it up to a standard in which they would be able to lease it.

​The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust has had previous experience with renovating empty properties in order to provide great affordable accommodation to local families and individuals in rural communities. For this reason, Laggan Community Trading Company contacted HSCHT for their assistance with the project. HSCHT managed the project, from sending out the original tender documentation and assessing submissions, right up until the property was ready for a new individual or family to move in. 
Leasing The Property – 
An agreement was put in place between Laggan Community Trading Company and the Highland Council, which stated that upon completion of the renovation, Highland Council would manage and let the property. 
Funding The Project –
Although LCTC had some reserves to put towards the renovation project, the majority of the works was funded by Highland Council, who provided a £15,000 grant, and a £15,000 loan. The loan is interest-free, and allows for a total of 5 years before it has to be repaid. This £30,000 contributed massively to the overall renovation costs.
Both the grant and loan were able to be drawn-down at various stages throughout the project. Another large benefit to making the project viable, was that due to the property being empty for over 2 years, only 5% VAT was to be charged on any works, as opposed to 20%. This proved to provide a massive reduction in the overall cost of the project.
The Tendering Process –
It was important to the project to use local contractors. For this reason HSCHT contacted a number of local contractors within the area to gauge who may be interested  We then issued the tender documentation, before assessing and deciding on a small local contractor who would undertake the whole project along with his chosen subcontractors.
​​The Renovation – 
There was a vast amount of work carried out on the property during its renovation. This included everything from massively increasing the thermal mass through additional
wall and roof insulation, to complete redecoration, relining, painting and decorating and re-dressing of internal doors. Old brick cupboards were demolished, including the removal of asbestos, and a completely new kitchen was installed. Plumbing work and a complete re-wire of the property also took place. New lighting fixtures, extractor fans, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors were installed too.
A large part of the renovation was the installing of completely new roof sarking, felt and slates.
In order to increase energy efficiency of the property, new high performance uPVC double glazed windows were put in the upstairs bedroom, which previously did not have escape windows that met building standards. New storage heaters were installed throughout the property, and a woodburning stove, hearth and metal chimney liner were put in place.
Externally, repair work was done to the chimney, new rainwater goods were introduced, a coal bunker was demolished, and the whole render and external woodwork was painted.
​Towards the completion of the renovation, Highland Council inspected the property to ensure that it was up to their standard, which highlighted a few snagging issues which were not considered originally. The project was completed in the spring of 2016 and is now managed and let by the Highland Council to a young local family. HSCHT monitored the project throughout the process, and Laggan Community Trading Company were incredibly pleased with the final outcome.
Sustainability – 
Environmental, economic and social sustainability are all qualities which HSCHT believes are very important to modern housing provision. In HSCHT’s quest to secure affordable housing solutions around the north of Scotland, we also create environmentally friendly homes.  A large part of the improvement of the buildings environmental performance was through a massive increase in insulation material. This included the installation of both Kingspan insulation and rigid insulation. Upstairs the walls had been left completely gutted out, with no plasterboard, let alone any form of insulation still in place.
This is another great example, of how small community led groups, the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, and local and statutory authorities such as the Highland Council can work together to turn empty properties into great affordable family homes, in areas where accommodation options are few.

In rural communities around the Highlands such as Strathmashie, people are increasingly being forced to leave their families, jobs and friends behind in search of a suitable home. In this particular case, making an affordable home available to a young family with two children, provides many benefits to the surrounding community, including increasing the local school roll.