Inspiring Scotland – Hope Cohousing receives £48K Grant

Hope Cohousing members meeting in the local community garden.

Hope Cohousing have been awarded over £48,000 by Inspiring Scotland’s Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund. This is a massive step forward to creating Orkney’s first cohousing development and Scotland’s only entirely rental cohousing scheme

Hope Cohousing was set up to address issues of social isolation, loneliness and fuel poverty experienced by older people in the community. The experience of COVID and lockdowns has demonstrated how damaging social isolation and loneliness are and the harm done to mental health.

Jenny Rambridge, director of Hope Cohousing, welcomed the award for this innovative scheme: “Alongside the support we’ve had from the local community and from Orkney Islands Council, it is a real boost to receive this grant. It will help us with preconstruction costs and move us closer to breaking ground on our site in St Margaret’s Hope. All of us in HCH are working hard to make our vision a reality – to build affordable, sustainable homes for older people as a lasting community benefit.”

The community-led development will include six eco-aware modern houses in the heart of St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay. They will provide accessible and adaptable living spaces with shared areas. The rents will be affordable, ensuring equal access to all in perpetuity. The residents will live independently in their own homes supporting and looking out for each other.

This innovative development is particularly important in Orkney where the older population is growing faster than the rest of Scotland. There is a lack of fit for purpose housing for seniors. In fact, Orkney has one of the lowest rates of new affordable house completion rates in Scotland. The availability of affordable private-sector housing has also been constrained by an increased number of second homes and properties bought to let to tourists. In addition, Orkney has one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Scotland.

Hope Cohousing is creating a blueprint for other community-led housing projects in rural and island locations. Supported by Orkney Islands Council, the model is replicable and attractive now as there is a severe shortage of suitable and affordable rental homes for older people.

Hope Cohousing is working to establish a small cohousing project in St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney, creating rented homes for older people who want to live independently within a supportive community. The project also hopes not just to pioneer but to pave the way for other projects. Having learned how difficult it is to start up an innovative community-led cohousing project, it is a key objective to ensure that other community groups benefit and can progress their projects more easily.

We are a group of four women, aged over 60, who live in Orkney. Some of us live alone, some of us are in partnerships. In 2018, talking together about our future housing needs, several faced changed circumstances. We began to consider the idea of somehow living co-operatively in our old age. Cohousing, with its ethos of living independently in a sharing community, offered a way forward that appealed to us all. We value our privacy and having our own space but recognise that friendship and support from neighbours and friends are crucial for our wellbeing as we age.

We bring a variety of skills and knowledge to the project, from artists/craftspeople to teaching and social care, to experience in business, to years of working in community groups. Some members of our group have been involved in running a craft co-operative for over 40 years. Others established and tend a community garden in St Margaret’s Hope. We are also involved in helping to organise events in our local community hall.

We have received support and funding from:

Robert Gordon University

Orkney Islands Council


Inspiring Scotland

Islands Housing Fund

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