Empty homes fund swamped with enquiries in first month

The National Empty Homes Loan Fund (NEHLF) has received enquiries for funding worth over £1 million in its first month.

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

Renovation work on the first property to receive a loan from the fund has already begun. The house in Blyth, Northumberland, had been empty for two years before the owner received £12,000 from the fund in September. The money is being used for roof repairs, new chimneys, damp proofing and a new kitchen and bathroom.

The NEHLF is a joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, Ecology Building Society, the government and over 45 councils. It provides loans of up to £15,000 to help bring empties back into affordable use.

The fund, which offers access to secured loans at a fixed 5% interest rate, 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 NEHLF has been funded by a government grant of £3m and is being administered by Ecology Building Society, a specialist mortgage lender that supports sustainable communities. It is available to individuals aged 18 and over who own a property that has been empty for six 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.”