Empty Homes Bank established via £3m Government Grant

The property charity ‘Empty Homes’ has made best use of a £3m Government grant by using the money to establish a new empty homes bank, through which landlords can be lent money at sub-market rates to fix up abandoned properties in England.

We have written before on Britain’s empty homes problem (see our latest article here) and the solution could potentially be in programmes like this, making it even more affordable to bring abandoned homes back into use.

Loans of up to £10,000 will be made available and, as they are repaid, the fund is expected to grow rapidly in its effectiveness. The first three years should bring an expected 300 homes back into use.

Mr Ireland, Chief Executive of Empty Homes, commented:

“All of the [empty homes] programmes that the government has put out are aimed at local authorities and housing associations; if you were an ordinary member of the public they would not apply to you. We felt there was a need to offer something to this group of people.

“There are a lot of people who have a property that needs work doing but cannot afford to finance [the work].”

His comments indicate the focus of the fund, to supply private landlords with funds, largely ignoring the better funded housing associations and other social housing providers.

He is currently searching for a banking partner to bolster this fund and has high hopes for its future growth. The scheme, which is being called an ’empty homes bank’ for England, will be piloted in six yet to be chosen local authorities with the first loans expected to be secured before the end of this year. Demand will dictate how much further financial support is required from a partnered bank, whose role is expected to be to supplement loans from the empty homes bank with further funds (satisfying needs over £10,000), potentially at higher rates.

The original capital injection came from a £25 million Communities and Local Government fund made available specifically to community groups and charities as part of an £85 million investment in tackling England’s estimated 720,000 empty homes.

In May, the remaining £60 million was distributed among 20 councils to bring clusters of empty homes back into use. The whole industry will no doubt be hoping progress is quickly made to bring even a small part of one of Britain’s most underused resources back onto the market.

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