The National Empty Homes Loan Fund [NEHLF] launched today, Monday 2nd September.
The scheme is the outcome of a successful bid to the government's Community Grants Programme by the charity Empty Homes. The scheme has since attracted the support of the Ecology Building Society [EBS], which provides vital support for giving loans. The NEHLF is managed by Dave Stott, a well-known figure in the empty homes practitioner world.
The scheme has been well-publicised already, with NEHLF seeking partner local authorities. 39 authorities are now cited as partners There are not thought to be any significant revisions in the live scheme. A press release issued jointly by EH and EBS runs as follows:
National Empty Homes Loans Fund Manager
Email : David.Stott@emptyhomes.com
Telephone : 020 3135 0674
In a joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, Ecology Building Society, central government and 39 participating local authorities, the scheme will provide loans of up to £15,000 to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into affordable use. The fund was one of the demands of last year’s Great British Property Scandal campaign led by architect and broadcaster George Clarke. Currently, owners of empty homes are often unable to access funds to bring the properties back into use, creating a vicious cycle of decline in areas with high numbers of empty properties.
The National Empty Homes Loan Fund (NEHLF), will enable access to secured loans at a fixed 5% interest rate, and will enable owners to renovate the property to Decent Homes standard (see Editors’ notes).
The NEHLF has been funded by a grant of £3 million from central government and is being administered by Ecology Building Society, a specialist mortgage lender that supports sustainable communities. It should provide funding for hundreds of properties and is available to individuals aged 18 and over who own a property that has been empty for 6 months or more.
Commenting on the launch of the scheme, George Clarke said:
"I care passionately about getting England’s empty homes back into use for people who need them. This scheme provides real help to property owners to help achieve that.”
David Ireland OBE, Chief Executive of Empty Homes, said:
“We know that many homes are empty because it is difficult for owners to raise the money that is required to bring them back up to a habitable standard. This initiative will kick-start efforts to tackle this.
“This scheme is a real first in England and is a great example of central government working together with the public and private sector to try and reduce the number of empty homes in the UK.
“We hope the fund will enable hundreds of empty homes to be brought back up to standard and back into the housing stock.”PaulEllis, Chief Executive of Ecology Building Society, said:
“We exist to support projects that will benefit the environment and local communities, so it’s natural for us to want to support efforts to bring empty homes back into use. This can affect any street in any town. At a time when there is increasing demand for homes but an acute lack of supply it makes sense to bring new life to existing but neglected properties, and we want to help provide the incentive for people to take on an empty home.”
Communities Minister Don Foster said:
"I'm delighted that this loan fund, backed with Government cash, will help bring hundreds of empty homes back into use across the country.
"This innovative new scheme will ensure properties that would otherwise have stood empty for many months can offer stable homes for people in need."
Individuals can either apply for the loan through their participating local authority (see Editors’ notes) or if their local authority is not yet a member of the scheme, directly through Ecology Building Society. Normal identification checks and affordability criteria will apply.
From: Editor's Notes
Frequently asked questions
Am I eligible?
To be eligible for an NEHLF loan you must:
- be the owner of an empty property that has been empty for six months or more
- be over 18 years of age
- not have secured borrowing of more than 70% of the property’s value in total (including the NEHLF loan)
- have the ability to repay the loan.
How much can I borrow?
You can borrow any amount between £5,000 and £15,000. If you have an existing mortgage, the Ecology Building Society will take the second charge.
What is the interest rate?
The interest rate is fixed at 5%.
How long can I take the loan out for?
The loan is for a maximum of 5 years. If you decide to pay the loan off before the end of the 5 year period, there are early repayment fees of 6% of the redemption balance.
What fees do I have to pay?
If you apply through a participating local authority scheme then there are no fees. If you apply directly to Ecology Building Society then there are administration and valuation fees applicable.
Is there a timescale for completing the work?
The estimated timescale for the completion of the main works will be jointly agreed and identified in the loan contract. The choice of who actually undertakes the works is the property owner’s decision but the works will need to deliver the property to Decent Homes standard and again that will be agreed in the contract.
What type of repair work can be done?
There is no fixed list of permitted works. The most common works are likely to include non-uPVC double glazed windows/doors, roofing work, kitchens, bathrooms, re-wiring, plumbing and insulation work.
Can I sell the property once the work is completed?
The intention is that the empty property must be let once it has been refurbished to Decent Homes standard. It must be let at an affordable rent level that will have been agreed at the time of the application. If you do sell the property within the agreed 5 year loan period, then the loan must be repaid and you will face an early redemption penalty.
What does Decent Homes standard mean?
This is a government standard which means that the home is in good repair, has reasonably modern facilities and is warm and weatherproof.
Which local authorities are taking part in the scheme?
39 local authorities are currently taking part, with more joining the scheme soon. The list is below:
Amber Valley, Boston, Broxtowe, Bury, Cheshire East, Corby, Cornwall, Croydon, Derby, Durham, East Lindsey, East Northants, Eden, Erewash, Exeter, Kirklees, Leeds, Lewisham, Liverpool, Mole Valley, NW Leicestershire, Northumberland, Newcastle Under Lyme, Plymouth, Redbridge, Rochdale, St Albans, St Helens, Sefton, South Holland, South Lakeland, Stoke, Teignbridge, Telford, Torridge, Wakefield, Warrington, Wellingborough, West Lindsey.
The NEHLF scheme operates nationwide. Individuals outside these local authority areas can apply directly to the scheme via Ecology Building Society.