Community Grants Programme: bidding to open soon

I thought it would be helpful to EHN members provide an update on the DCLG's Community Grants Programme, before the Programme gets underway in the New Year.

To recap, the great thing about the The Community Grants Programme is that it will be accessible to community-led organisations which will not be required to become a registered provider ( eg a registered housing association). For this reason it will be administered by an Intermediary Body which the Department of Communities & Local Government are now in the process of appointing. This should be completed by the first week in January .

1. Size Of Programme & Bidding:

The Programme is likely to be between £10m - £30m, subject to demand and bidding is expected to run from week 23rd January 2012 tbc until the end of March 2012. The size of the programme will depend on the level of demand and so we want to make sure that as many organisations as possible know about it.

2. Regional Briefings:

HACT & Self-Help Housing.Org, are currently working on putting together aCapacity Building Programme around the Community Grants Programme which will help community led organizations withbidding and securing allocations. As part of this seven Regional Briefings are being planned for Leeds, Newcastle,Manchester, Birmingham, Exeter & London x2. They will take place between 23rd January and 10th February. More details to follow as soon as the dates are confirmed.

It's planned that someone from the Intermediary Body will attend each Briefing and each event will therefore provide an opportunity to find out first hand about the Programme.

3. Securing Funding From The Programme:

Final details of all the bidding criteria will appear when bidding opens, but meantime the following criteria are important to note for any organisation interested in bidding:

-Eligible Properties: Properties in the ownership of social housing landlords (i.e. local authority housing departments & registered housing associations) which have been let as social housing are excluded, but all other properties are eligible ( eg private/gov’t depts./health etc). However, subject to confirmation, this may also include properties owned by social landlords that haven't ever been let as social housing ( eg empty property acquired from a private owner for redevelopment) - this could be quite helpful in some parts of the country.

- Commercial Property: Commercial properties will be eligible for residential use.

- Period Empty: Properties must have been empty for "a significant period of time"and more than six months. Although the aim appears to be to achieve a two year average across the programme, there does now seem to be more flexibility.

- Identifying Properties: It will not be necessary to identify individual properties in advance of submitting a bid.

- Lease or Purchase: Funding is available for both leasing and purchasing properties, although the limited level of grants will make purchase more problematic.

- Length of Leases: The minimum length for leases will be 5 years.

- Grant Levels: The current guidance for leased propertiesis rather vague and suggests that grants will be between £6-£9K in "the north” and £13-£22k in the London. However, actual grants will be assessed on the length of lease/ the number of people housed and rent charged, so details about these assumptions would be needed in order to get a more accurate picture of grants, in relation to specific properties of varying sizes and lengths of leases. We'd encourage people not to be deterred by the indicative grant levels suggested to date. .

- Standards: Leased properties should be refurbished to the Decent Homes Standard.

- Local Authority Support: Bids will be expected to be supported by the local authority.

- Nominations: Agreement needs to be reached with local authorities over nominations. Further clarification will be sought around this. .

- Rents:Rents will be expected to be up to 80%of market rents and the level of rent will be takeninto account when accessing schemes for funding.

- Training/Employment/Community Benefit:Bids offering training and employment opportunities for local communities and “community benefit” will be viewed favorably.

We'll send out confirmation of the bidding timetable and details dates for of regional briefings as soon as the information becomes available in the new year.

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