Nationwide Foundation launches Empty Homes Funding Programme

In an unexpected bonus for the empty homes world, the Nationwide Foundation has announced a grant programme to bring empty homes back into use.

The overall size of the pot is not stated but we assume it is under £1million based on the overall grant-giving capacity of the Foundation in recent years (see below).

Funding Criteria

The details of the Funding Criteria are reproduced from the Foundation's website.

Who can apply

Organisations bringing empty properties into use for people in need with priority given to schemes including one or more of the following:

  • Projects which are financially sustainable, or which are working towards financial sustainability
  • Projects incorporating training for NEETS and others who are out of work or low skilled
  • Live/work schemes
  • Environmentally friendly practices
  • Asset transfer

What costs will be funded?

Funds will considered towards the costs of refurbishment and can include a fair contribution towards organisational core costs where this is required to bring empty properties into use as homes for people in need. Funds will also be considered towards legal and other such costs associated with obtaining the empty properties (including landlord negotiation and asset transfer). Funds are limited so the Foundation's support is expected to complement other sources of funding which the organisation has.

Applicants can apply for grant funding or programme related (social) investment loans depending on which is the most appropriate for the scheme.

Amounts of £15,000 to £140,000 will be considered.

Process

Predictably, local authorities (as statutory bodies) are not eligible for the funding, but housing associations would be.

The application is entirely on-line. It's relatively simple and demands brevity, with character limits to key description fields. Whether it allows sufficient information to be conveyed for a decision to be made about the merit of each bid might be debatable but there is in any case an interview process for those who make it that far.

Other possibilities

One great advantage possessed by the Nationwide Foundation is that it is free to fund anything that lies within its broad charitable objectives. It is not bound by the limited, short-term and often arbitrary constraints that to a greater or lesser extent have afflicted the HCA and the CLG/Tribal grant programmes. And whilst the Tribal funding has been substantial and extremely welcome for community housing groups, no one is under any illusion at all that Tribal has any commitment to the sector or the empty homes issue. They are in it for the money.

The Nationwide Foundation by contrast has a whole philosophy around the way that it gives grant and supports charities. Capacity- and partnership-building seem to be very much a part of that, as is an intelligent appraoch to grant-giving and.evaluation.

We pride ourselves on delivering excellence in grant making and have been recognised for this through various award schemes.

For example their 2011-12 Annual Report includes the following under "Our Approach":

  • Initial research to identify the root causes of a problem and best practice to tackle it
  • A commitment to charities of long term core, development and project funding which is flexible, complemented by small grants
  • The promotion and support of partnership working amongst grantees to achieve greater impacts
  • Independent evaluations to improve and promote good grant making practice and to raise awareness of the issues supported.

The first and last of these are particularly significant for EHN. It has been an issue for us that there has been no evaluation of what works in grant and loan schemes, although there is plenty of evidence out there. When the £100million empty homes scheme was first announced we wrote to Andrew Stunell strongly recommending that there should be such an evaluation.

That challenge remains. In the meantime, all we can say with some certainty is that schemes that have been demonstrated to work effectively and cost-effectively, such as the Kent Loan scheme, in its native configuration, have not been eligible for funding because they are too oriented towards empty homes and not enough towards affordable housing.

The Nationwide Foundation

The Nationwise Foundation was established by the Nationwide Building Society in 1997. Although it is an independent charity and outside of the Nationwide Group, its main benefactor remains the Nationwide Building Society, which makes annual lump-sum donations. The Nationwide Building Society agreed in 2008 to donate 1% of its pre-tax profits to charity.

The Foundation seems to have been grant-aiding charities to the tune of about £1.5million over recent years, but this amount seems to have exceeded its income over the shorter term. However, the long-term income will inevitably be a different picture.

The Nationwide Foundation Strategy

The Empty Homes Funding Programme is one of thee strands within the Foundation's new strategy entitled "The Decent Affordable Homes Strategy". The other strands are about improving the conditions for vulnerable tenants in the PRS and the development of "alternative, scalable housing models".

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