The scheme, which is aimed at bringing some of England’s 710,000 empty homes back into use, launched on Monday and was swamped with applications on the first day.
The scheme is a joint initiative between the charity Empty Homes, Ecology Building Society, central government and 39 participating local authorities.
It provides loans of between £5,000 and £15,000 to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into affordable use.
Owners of empty homes can access secured loans at a fixed interest rate of 5%, via the National Empty Homes Loan Fund (NEHLF), in order to renovate their properties to Decent Homes standard. Decent Homes standard is defined as being in good repair, with reasonably modern facilities, warm and weatherproof.
The loan must be repaid over a five-year term.
The intention is that, once renovated to a Decent Homes standard, the property should be let, rather than sold. If an owner sells the property during the five year loan period, they must repay the loan and will incur an Early Repayment Charge.
The NEHLF has been funded by a grant of £3m from central government and is being administered by Ecology Building Society. It aims to 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.
David Ireland, 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, added:
“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.”
Owners of empty homes can apply for a loan via their participating local authority, and there are no fees to pay. If your local authority is not yet a member of the scheme, you can apply directly through Ecology Building Society, but note that administration and and valuation fees will apply in this instance.