Ten ways to make huts affordable for all

A beautiful small hut in the woods1. Affordable organising: Follow the traditional hut site model. What we are calling the traditional hut site model is actually a modernised version. The traditional model is that hutters pay ground rent to a landowner (which could be an individual or a public body or community organisation). We are recommending that groups of hutters in a hut site then form a Hutters’ Trust (or similar body) to manage the site. This Trust can be responsible for sharing costs and work to make the site viable for all. As a constitituted group, this Trust may also have more access to funding to help with these costs.

2. Affordable rents: Practice fair hutting. We have created a Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landowners. It sets out points to form the basis of a fair tenancy agreement between hutter and landowner.

3. Buying land: Individuals getting together to share the costs. With land prices as they are, owning land is not necessarily a viable option for an individual for affordable hutting. However, one of the ways it may become possible is if a group of people get together to share the cost of land purchase and site development. It is worth keeping an eye on property auctions and an ear to the grapevine to find out when more affordable parcels of land become available. The Thousand Huts Facebook group is another good way of hearing what is available. It may also be worth looking at possible legal structures for this type of group – following the model of housing co-operatives, for example, may be useful.

4. Buying land: Community groups purchasing a site. In recent years there has been a rise in support for community ownership of assets. You will find a wealth of experience of this within bodies like the Development Trusts Association or the Community Woodlands Association. It can be done, with lots of hard work!

5. Renting land: Find a friendly landowner. Landowners may sometimes get bad press, but you may be surprised by how many of them want to use their land for social benefit. Many are keen to get people back on their land and to feel that they are sharing what they have. We have been approached by many landowners who are interested in having a hut site on their land, and we plan to create a database of these opportunities. They all have different motivations – and though they will need to keep their business financially viable, many would like to see their land being used in a way that would increase the wellbeing of people in their area. It is well worth approaching a landowner to see what they would think of the possibility of a hut site on their land. If an affordable ground rent is set, with good conditions, as set out in the Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landowners, renting ground from a supportive landlord could be an achievable way of accessing land. It should be remembered, too, that with farm incomes at a low, the ground rent from huts could provide a landowner with an attractive income stream and, as long as ground rents are set at a fair level for both parties, this economic benefit can also be used to persuade a landlord to allow huts on their land.

6. Affordable building: Two out of three. It is a great truism of building that you can only have two of the three qualities (quick, cheap and good) that you may wish from your build. So you could spend a lot of money on labour and materials and end up with a quick and good building, but it won’t be cheap. You could spend lots of time sourcing reclaimed materials and working on your build yourself, and you may end up with a good building, but it won’t be quick. Or you can build quickly and cheaply, but perhaps not end up with the best quality! A cheap building is possible, but it will cost you time and work.

7. Affordable building: Keep it basic! Of course you can also build something affordable by aiming for something very small and simple, using reclaimed materials. There is a huge amount of waste from the construction industry, and companies often have to pay to dispose of it and are only too happy if you can take unwanted materials off their hands. For example glaziers often have a stack of windows removed from other buildings and waiting to go in a skip. While some of these will be sub-standard, there will often be great opportunities to source good windows for free by this method. Last week I got a large double-glazed, toughened glass unit which would have cost me £200 if I had to order it. You have to spend a fair bit of time going round your local companies to see where the opportunities are, but once you have found your source it can be a great way of reducing your costs. However, you do need access to a van for this sort of salvage.

8. Sharing your hut. A really great way to keep hutting affordable would be for groups of friends to share a hut. That way the costs of the build and ground rent can be spread much further. If anyone is already doing this, or working on it as a possibility, we’d love to hear from you.

9. Subsidise an affordable hut on your site. If you are already part of a group running a hut site, perhaps your group might consider making a hut available at a subsidised rate to people who could not otherwise afford it. Or possibly making a partnership with a community organisation who might be able to give access to the hut for people they work with.

10. Build a smaller hut! Remember that 30m2 is the maximum size for a hut under the definition in Scottish Planning Policy. You will save a lot of money by simply building a much smaller hut.

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