New scheme aims to bring empty homes back into use

Dealing with England's 710,000 empty homes would help to tackle housing shortage.

A joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, Ecology Building Society, central government and 39 participating local authorities, will provide loans of up to £15,000 to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into affordable use.

Setting up the fund was one of the main planks 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 offer secured loans at a fixed 5 per cent interest rate and enable owners to renovate the property to a decent 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 people aged 18 and over who own a property that has been empty for six months or more. 

"I care passionately about getting England's empty homes back into use for people who need them," said George Clarke. "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. 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 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."

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