An innovative new scheme aimed at bringing some of England’s 710,000 empty homes back into use launched yesterday in a move that aims to help tackle the country’s housing shortage.
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.
The NEHLF has been funded by a grant of £3 million from central government and is being administered by Ecology Building Society. 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 six 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.”
Paul Ellis, 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.”
Individuals can either apply for the loan through their participating local authority 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.