Mull and Iona Community Trust Registers Its First Rural Housing Burden in a Step to Retain Affordable Homes

Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) has registered its first Rural Housing Burden, as a means of retaining property in the affordable housing market – forever.

MICT was appointed as a designated Rural Housing Body back in 2014 by Scottish Ministers, giving the charity legal powers to place Burdens on titles of properties. The Burden is a means of ensuring that the property must be lived in as a permanent home, and that MICT has first refusal to buy it, should it be offered for sale in the future.  The pre-emptive right of purchase remains with the title of a property in perpetuity, which will ensure that the property will never become a second home or short-term holiday let. 

Dr Jennifer Jack approached MICT following the passing of her mother, which left her with a surplus property.  She had read MICT’s publicity about Rural Housing Burdens and, well aware of the housing crisis on Mull, she was very keen to help.  As such, she committed to selling the property with a Burden attached, to a local keyworker, and in addition offered a discount of 30% below market value to ensure it’s affordability.

Julie Walker, Mull’s only pharmacist, had sold her business and left the island, however when the sale fell through she needed to return to the island to continue the business – and found herself homeless.  The opportunity to purchase a home affordably has enabled her to stay, thereby securing the future of Tobermory Pharmacy.  Julie says, “I am so happy to have a secure home of my own, I feel a weight has been lifted as housing is so hard to come by here on Mull”.

Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager at MICT, has been working on promoting Burdens for a number of years.  MICT does not need to own a property to apply a Burden, they can be applied during conveyancing, or stipulated in someone’s Will. She explains, “while MICT has had the legal powers to apply Burdens for a decade it is only recently we have been in a position to do so.  We are very grateful to Ronnie MacRae and his team at Communities Housing Trust for all the advice and support they have provided along the way.   We are delighted with the outcome of this situation, grateful to Jennifer for her generosity and hope Julie is very happy in her new home”.

Sandy Brunton, Convenor of MICT added, “We believe MICT is the first development trust to apply a Burden on a property in this way, without owning it.  This is one of a number of exciting and desperately needed options we are pursuing to help tackle the housing crisis on our islands. We are really keen to encourage property owners to get in touch with Helen if they think they can help in some way, now or in the future”.

Mull and Iona Community Trust was designated as a Rural Housing Body by Scottish Ministers in October 2014.  Anyone wishing more information should contact Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager by email: 

Tobermory Worker Accommodation Project: Work Starts on Site

Work has started on site to deliver much needed worker accommodation in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Argyll & Bute Council is delivering the project on Council-owned land at Rockfield in the town, having secured grant funding from the Scottish Government’s Islands Programme Fund, Place Based Investment Programme and Crown Estates. These grants have enabled the initial groundworks to take place to open up the site, including an access road and services connections for electricity, water and sewage.

The need for dedicated worker accommodation across Mull & Iona has been well evidenced by Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), which commissioned a Feasibility Study in 2022, and a follow up Economic Impact Assessment in early 2023. The feasibility study confirmed there were 133 unfilled vacancies on the islands, and a further 127 living in unsuitable accommodation, representing 7% of the islands’ workforce. The EIA quantified that should this accommodation need be fully met, the islands’ economy could increase by £20.1M GVA per year, and nearly 400 jobs. MICT’s research contributed to the Council securing funding for this project.

Full planning permission has been secured to build a total of 12 units in three blocks, , and currently anticipated to start on site in 2025. MICT is working closely with the Council on the project, and will potentially take on a management role on completion. It is anticipated some units will be rented directly to businesses for staff use, and others being made available as ‘stepping stone’ accommodation for individuals moving to the island to take up key posts, enabling them to search for a permanent home once in post.

A full options appraisal is currently being undertaken to determine the exact mix of units, allocation policy and management of the site, however those in employment locally will be prioritised, and the units will solely be used for such purposes, and never as holiday lets. The Council is now working to secure funding to deliver the remaining two blocks, supported by MICT.

The Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Jim Lynch, said: “We are committed to addressing the housing shortage in Argyll and Bute and, since the council declared a housing emergency last year, we have been working hard to deliver a variety of initiatives to address the issue.

“This new development on the Isle of Mull will open the door to more accommodation for key workers who often struggle to find somewhere to stay, and is just one example of the many actions we’re taking to increase housing capacity in the area.”

MICT’s Housing Development Manager commented, “we hear every day of the difficulties local businesses and organisations are facing in recruiting and retaining staff, and this is not only impacting on the viability of businesses and the effectiveness of our essential services, but also on the sustainability of our island communities as a whole. To see work now taking place on site is really positive”.

Local business owner, Joe Reade, added, “This is a great first step in addressing a part of the islands’ housing issues. The extreme scarcity of affordable housing is not just a huge social problem, but economic too. Island businesses like ours could be growing and employing many more people, if only there was somewhere for their employees to live. People who have grown up on the island cannot take up employment opportunities, and those who would like to move here to work and live can’t find a home. A vibrant, sustainable and healthy community can’t be built on holiday homes and retirement cottages alone. We look forward to more projects like this from the Council and MICT.”

Any local businesses wishing more details should contact Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager at MICT: email

Energy Costs Support for the Islands

Winter heating bills are rising to unaffordable levels and we are keen to remind permanent residents of Mull, Iona, Ulva, Gometra and Erraid that financial help is available from the Fuel Hardship Fund.

The Fuel Hardship Fund is a home grown scheme run by The Waterfall Fund, an independent charity setup to receive the profits from Garmony Hydro and distribute them as grants to the communities of Mull and Iona. Garmony Hydro and the Waterfall Fund were setup by Mull and Iona Community Trust. Residents able to demonstrate they are in fuel poverty will receive one-off payments of £250 per household no matter how their house is heated. Applications to this fund are completely confidential.

In addition to the Fuel Hardship Fund, further support is available:

We would also like to highlight this guide Do You have Money Worries developed by the Bute Advice Centre. The helpful guide covers topics such as maximising your income, budgeting tips, dealing with debt, energy advice and support services.

For more information on The Fuel Hardship Fund please contact

Work Starts on Glengorm Affordable Housing Project

Glengorm Farming Partnership has secured significant funding to convert disused farm buildings near Tobermory into five affordable housing units.


Recognising the acute need for affordable housing on Mull, Glengorm is committed to increasing the supply of permanent homes locally, including releasing land for new builds and converting some of their properties from short-term to long-term lets.  Renovating a disused barn in the farm square will add a further five new homes, which will be offered for affordable rent to those in housing need on completion.

 The project has been made possible thanks to grant funding from the Scottish Government’s Rural & Islands Housing Fund, and Argyll & Bute Council’s Strategic Housing Fund.  Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) supported Glengorm in securing the grant funding, carrying out community consultation work to evidence the housing need, and advising on the required allocation policy.

 While the Rural & Islands Housing Fund is open to landowners across all sectors, the majority of recipients to date have been community groups.  Glengorm is the first private landowner in Argyll to have been awarded such a grant, and it is hoped others will follow suit and contribute to increasing the number of affordable homes in our most rural communities.

 Tom Nelson, owner of Glengorm, commented, “We are very excited, at Glengorm, that our latest housing project is now well underway. Repurposing redundant farm buildings is a great way to add to the rental housing stock in our community without greatly impacting the beauty of the island. The addition of these 5 homes will increase or long term rental properties to 13 on Glengorm, with well over 50 residents, the highest number in over 120 years.  We would like to thank Helen MacDonald of MICT for help in securing the necessary funding.  Also continued thanks to Gus Robertson for building it and AGL Architects for their design.”

 MICT Housing Development Manager Helen MacDonald added, “we have been delighted to support Glengorm with this affordable housing project, and it is great to see work now underway after delays relating to Covid.”

The project is being led by AGL Architects with construction by Gus Robertson Building Contractors.  More details about how to apply to rent the new houses will be made available towards the end of the year.

 MICT offers housing advice and consultancy services across Mull and Iona, and would be happy to speak to any local landowners considering how they can support the delivery of affordable housing locally, please contact Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager: or 01680 812 912.  More information about the Rural & Islands Housing Fund can be found here:

New Public Access Defibrillator

We are pleased to announce that Island Bakery Organics is now hosting a Public Access Defibrillator, adding to the network across Mull and Iona – THIRTY THREE in total! Big thanks to Joe Reade and to Cathy Mellor who will take care of the defibrillator carrying out the monthly checks.

Moray with Cathy and Joe at the new Public Access Defibrillator

Here is the up to date map of the 33 public access defibrillators across Mull, Iona, Erraid and Ulva.
Please share it widely.

If you would like to make a donation towards the running cost of a defibrillator, request a printed copy or would like to find out more about what is involved in hosting one, please contact

Rural Housing Burdens: A Partial Solution to Our Housing Crisis?

Mull is experiencing a housing crisis. Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) receives regular pleas from individuals, families and businesses desperately seeking homes on the island across all tenures. The lack of housing is causing significant problems to our communities and threatens to accelerate depopulation of our working age residents.

The demand for homes to facilitate holiday boltholes and lifestyle changes post-pandemic has driven up house prices, far beyond the reach of average households living on the island. An increasing number of self-catering lets to meet the heightened domestic holiday market, while providing valuable income for many, has negatively impacted on the long-term lets options for key workers and business employees.

Various plans for new affordable housing developments will help address this issue, but they take time to come to fruition. Meanwhile, many feel they will never get a foot on the property ladder, and face the prospect of continued renting uncertainty or having to leave the island.

There is, however, an option which ensures that houses being sold must be the primary residence of the owner – FOREVER. A Rural Housing Burden is a mechanism under Scots Law which places a Title Condition on the deeds of a property which will apply in perpetuity. Under the Land Reform Act, a Rural Housing Burden can only be applied by a designated Rural Housing Body: MICT was approved by Scottish Ministers as a Rural Housing Body in 2014.

When a burden is first applied on behalf of the owner, the vendor may wish to offer a discount, usually 20-40% below the market valuation to help make it more affordable.

The new property owner would have full legal title and ownership of their home, but they would be bound by legally enforceable conditions of the Burden which ensures that it must be their main residence and not let as a holiday home.

Once the Burden is in place, MICT has a pre-emptive right to buy it back if the owner ever wishes to sell. If MICT does buy the property back it would be at the discount percentage (if applicable) of the current market valuation and it would then be sold on at the same discount percentage. This ensures that the original discount made will endure in perpetuity. The conditions and MICT’s right of pre-emption remain with the Title forever.
For someone selling a property, the Rural Housing Burden, while possibly reducing the sale price, would give peace of mind that the house would remain as someone’s home in perpetuity, and their generosity would not be taken advantage of. For the new owner, it would be a means of buying more affordably and still being able to benefit from the proportional rise in market prices if they sold on in the future.

If you are considering selling and would like to find out more, contact Helen MacDonald at MICT for a confidential chat: email or call 01680 812 912.

Ulva Ferry Housing Phase 2

Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), working with Ulva School Community Association (USCA), are delighted to have appointed The Wee House Company to build four affordable houses at Ulva Ferry, on the Isle of Mull. This news is a culmination of three years’ dedicated work to secure land and funding for this project, which will meet an ongoing acute housing need locally.

Thanks to a grant of £777,855 from the Scottish Government’s Rural & Islands Housing Fund, £48,000 from Argyll & Bute Council’s Strategic Housing Fund, a mortgage from Ecology Building Society and many individual donations, a full funding package has now been secured. MICT is also grateful to the Scottish Land Fund, The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Nationwide Community Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise for funding the Project Officer’s post.

This ambitious project will see construction of 4 houses at Ulva Ferry, on the west coast of the Isle of Mull, on two plots of land – one purchased via the Scottish Land Fund, and one donated by a local landowner. The houses will be offered with secure tenancies to those in housing need. Rents will be affordable, in line with social housing on Mull, and will be economical to heat. A locally agreed allocation policy will be used to prioritise applications. While MICT is a registered private landlord, they are working with West Highland Housing Association, who offer assistance with allocations, management support, and advice to tenants.

Delivering affordable long-term rental homes will have a real positive impact for the local community at Ulva Ferry, including an increase in the primary school roll, and the number of working age adults to work locally which will boost the fragile local economy. USCA Convenor Josh Liddle commented, “it is fantastic to see The Wee House Company formally appointed to manage this project after so much work behind the scenes. We look forward to welcoming more people to our community here at Ulva Ferry next year”.

MICT Convenor, Sandy Brunton, added, “affordable housing is consistently a priority issue across Mull and Iona and this project is a really good example of community powered regeneration. We are so fortunate to have Helen MacDonald, our very experienced Housing Project Officer, steering us through all the challenges of building homes for rent in a very rural area”.

The Wee House Company is at the forefront of modular construction in Scotland. Homes are 90% complete before leaving their Ayrshire factory and are delivered to site ready-fitted with kitchens, bathrooms, plumbing and electrics, meaning they can be completed and occupied far quicker than traditional builds. Factory conditions help reduce waste and improve quality control, whilst eliminating the effects of inclement weather.

Managing Director Jennifer Higgins said “The need for affordable homes has never been greater and with our newly launched brand ‘Connect Modular’ we look forward to contributing high quality, sustainable homes to help tackle this issue. With our wealth of experience building in remote and island communities we are very much looking forward to working with MICT and USCA to deliver these much-needed homes for residents of Mull.”

For more details about the Ulva Ferry housing project, or if you want to discuss affordable housing issues anywhere on Mull and Iona, please contact Helen MacDonald on 01680 812 918 or email

MESS Island Castaways & Donations

Thank you to everyone for their patience and understanding while our charity shops have been closed. We are looking at ways to reopen our shops in as soon as it’s safe to do so. We are also investigating selling online by ebay and more locally via facebook (we will post updates as we have them). We know lots of you have items ready to donate and for that we are truly grateful. We will need your donations, and your custom, more than ever.

As many of you have indicated that that have been busy clearing out during lockdown, we anticipate being very busy initially, and so we will need to accept donations in a very controlled manner. We are looking at how to safely accept donations at drop off points – we will let you know more details nearer the time. We will also be quarantining donations for 72 hours before they are sorted, meaning lack of storage space is likely to be an issue.

One big thing you can do before donating is sort it yourself by following these checklists: Donating clothing

  • Is the item damaged in any way
  • Is the fabric bobbly
  • Would I buy this item?

If you don’t think it’s good enough to sell, please can you place in a separate bag marked rags. We can still send these for recycling as long as they are clean.

Donating Toys

  • Are all the pieces there?
  • Is it broken in any way?
  • Are the boxes badly damaged?

Donating small Electrical goods

  • Is the item in good repair
  • Is it fully functioning? We test electrical goods but do not do repairs.

Donating furniture

  • Is the upholstery ripped or stained
    • Is it clean.
    • Is the wood or glass scratched or damaged?
    • Is the correct fire label still attached?

If so , we ask that you dispose of them yourself as our strict re-use standards only allow us to sell quality checked items.

This will help us save time and cut down on waste, meaning more time and money can go towards supporting our recycling project and the community.

We hope to post more updates very soon about when you can shop, donate and volunteer – as well as, crucially, how we will be keeping you all safe. Thank you again for your patience.

For more information please contact Hazel Cowe at

Ulva Ferry Pontoon, Shore Facilities and Gateway Centre

Aerial view of Ulva Ferry car park under construction

Like most areas of life as we know it, the Ulva Ferry car park improvement project came to a grinding halt in late March, so close to completion, after a sterling job from TSL and subcontractors in challenging winter weather. Work continues to finalise signage ready for when construction work can begin again in phase 2 of the Scottish Government coronavirus route map.

The community planting day was postponed, and the saplings kindly donated by Rachel Watt and Lucy MacKenzie are being cared for by Moray in readiness to plant out in the Autumn.

Design work has continued on the shore facilities building thanks to a grant from The Waterfall Fund and RTIF (Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund), and whilst effort has been diverted to bring in much need MICT core funding, due to lack of income during the pandemic, it is hoped that work will begin again soon on the shore facilities development project to secure planning and funding.

The Ulva Ferry pontoon has been quiet during the beautiful spring weather but has been providing berthing for fishing boats, and now local recreational boats. We hope we can welcome back visiting boats later in the summer.

Cally Fleming, Shore Facilities Development Officer

Aros Park Walled Garden Update

This really is going to be one heck of a project. The progress we have made in the last few months has been really encouraging. For a start, we now have permission from Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) to start work, plus they are very supportive of what we are doing and are willing to help wherever they can.

With great thanks to an island resident who just happens to have been a walled garden designer in the past, we now have a design layout for the garden, this has come with a full planting list as well. This design has been discussed at length within the steering group and we have agreed that something very close to this will be the basis for the renovated garden. With his expert knowledge, we now know that we need to follow the original layout of the garden, so we will be looking to rediscover the original paths and border boundaries.

Progress has also been made on the wall. A survey has now been carried out, and the report is good news. It’s not perfect by a long way, but it is safe. Unfortunately, the repair bill for the section that has fallen will not be small, but there are ways to mitigate this.

We are now very close to the clearing the ground stage of the project. However, before we can make a start there are a number of trees in and around the garden that need to be removed. Once these are clear, then we will be looking for helpers to come in and clear the ground and find out what there is in the garden that is worth keeping.

If you would like to get involved, either with the steering group, or with the digging and clearing, please let me know, we’d love to see you.

– Richard Thorne, Project Officer