National Empty Homes Loans Fund ‘swamped’

Nia Williams

October 3, 2013

The scheme, which is aimed at bringing some of England’s 710,000 empty homes back into affordable use, has been swamped by enquiries as owners of empty properties apply to borrow funds to renovate their houses.

Renovation work on the first property to receive a loan from the NEHLF is progressing well, ahead of the property being let as affordable housing. The house in Blyth, Northumberland, had been empty for 2 years before the owner of the property received a loan of £12,000 from the fund in the middle of September, to help renovate the property.

The NEHLF is a joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, Ecology Building Society, central government and over 45 participating local authorities. It provides 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 Loans Fund enables access to secured loans at a fixed 5% interest rate and enables 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 6 months or more.

David Ireland OBE, chief executive of Empty Homes, said: “The response to the launch of the fund has been amazing, but it clearly shows that there is a real demand for this type of funding to help get empty homes back into affordable use.

“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: “I’m thrilled but not surprised that there has been so much interest in the scheme. At a time when there is increasing demand for homes but an acute lack of supply it makes total sense to bring new life to existing but neglected properties.”

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.

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