Monday, 2 September 2013

New national empty homes loan fund launched

An innovative new scheme aimed at bringing some of England’s 710,000 empty homes back into use is launching today in a move that will help to tackle the country’s housing shortage.

There are more than 18,894 homes standing empty within Leeds, with 7,247 of these being empty for six months or more. The new scheme aims to bring some of those back into circulation and to provide much needed homes within the area.

In a joint initiative between Leeds City Council, the charity Empty Homes, central government and the Ecology Building Society, the scheme will provide 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 Loan Fund (NEHLF), will enable access to secured loans at a fixed 5% interest rate, and will enable owners to renovate the property to Decent Homes standard (see Editors’ notes).

The NEHLF has been funded by a grant of £3 million from central government and is being administered by Ecology Building Society, a specialist mortgage lender that supports sustainable communities. 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.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:

“We know that many empty properties exist within our area because owners simply do not have the money that is required to bring them back up to a habitable standard and this initiative will help towards tackling this.

“Already in Leeds, as a council we are bringing over 3000 properties back into use each year, and more recently have been working with social enterprises to focus more work on empty properties within the city.”

David Ireland OBE, Chief Executive of Empty Homes, said:

“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.”

Commenting on the launch of the scheme, George Clarke said:

“I care passionately about getting England’s empty homes back into use for people who need them. This scheme provides real help to property owners to help achieve that.”

Paul Ellis, Chief Executive of Ecology Building Society, said:

“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.”

Individuals can either apply for the loan through their participating local authority (see Editors’ notes) or if their local authority is not yet a member of the scheme, directly through Ecology Building Society. Normal identification checks and affordability criteria will apply.

Notes to editors:

Full details of the scheme can be found at www.emptyhomes.com and www.ecology.co.uk/emptyhomes

Frequently asked questions

Am I eligible?
To be eligible for an NEHLF loan you must:
• be the owner of an empty property that has been empty for six months or more
• be over 18 years of age
• not have secured borrowing of more than 70% of the property’s value in total (including the NEHLF loan)
• have the ability to repay the loan.

How much can I borrow?
You can borrow any amount between £5,000 and £15,000. If you have an existing mortgage, the Ecology Building Society will take the second charge.

What is the interest rate?
The interest rate is fixed at 5%.

How long can I take the loan out for?
The loan is for a maximum of 5 years. If you decide to pay the loan off before the end of the 5 year period, there are early repayment fees of 6% of the redemption balance.

What fees do I have to pay?
If you apply through a participating local authority scheme then there are no fees. If you apply directly to Ecology Building Society then there are administration and valuation fees applicable.

Is there a timescale for completing the work?
The estimated timescale for the completion of the main works will be jointly agreed and identified in the loan contract. The choice of who actually undertakes the works is the property owner’s decision but the works will need to deliver the property to Decent Homes standard and again that will be agreed in the contract.

What type of repair work can be done?
There is no fixed list of permitted works. The most common works are likely to include non-uPVC double glazed windows/doors, roofing work, kitchens, bathrooms, re-wiring, plumbing and insulation work.

Can I sell the property once the work is completed?
The intention is that the empty property must be let once it has been refurbished to Decent Homes standard. It must be let at an affordable rent level that will have been agreed at the time of the application. If you do sell the property within the agreed 5 year loan period, then the loan must be repaid and you will face an early redemption penalty.

What does Decent Homes standard mean?
This is a government standard which means that the home is in good repair, has reasonably modern facilities and is warm and weatherproof.

Which local authorities are taking part in the scheme?
39 local authorities are currently taking part, with more joining the scheme soon. The list is below:
Amber Valley, Boston, Broxtowe, Bury, Cheshire East, Corby, Cornwall, Croydon, Derby, Durham, East Lindsey, East Northants, Eden, Erewash, Exeter, Kirklees, Leeds, Lewisham, Liverpool, Mole Valley, NW Leicestershire, Northumberland, Newcastle Under Lyme, Plymouth, Redbridge, Rochdale, St Albans, St Helens, Sefton, South Holland, South Lakeland, Stoke, Teignbridge, Telford, Torridge, Wakefield, Warrington, Wellingborough, West Lindsey.
The NEHLF scheme operates nationwide. Individuals outside these local authority areas can apply directly to the scheme via Ecology Building Society.
How many empty homes are there in England?

Region Total Dwellings Total Empty % Empty
North East 1,186,982 44,960 3.79%
Yorks/Humber 2,336,965 88,910 3.80%
East Midlands 1,989,361 64,503 3.24%
East 2,556,412 69,654 2.72%
London 3,411,821 72,457 2.12%
South East 3,722,317 98,313 2.64%
South West 2,418,746 68,973 2.85%
West Midlands 2,387,061 72,289 3.03%
North West 3,168,731 130,081 4.11%
England Total 23,178,396 710,140 3.06%

About Empty Homes.

Empty Homes is an independent charity. It helps people create homes from empty properties and campaign for more empty homes to be brought into use for the benefit of those who need housing. We estimate that there are 920,000 empty homes across the UK, of which 330,000 are long term empty. For more information about Empty Homes, visit www.emptyhomes.com

About Ecology Building Society.

Ecology Building Society provides mortgages for sustainable properties and projects, funded through a range of fair, transparent ethical savings accounts. It was the first lender to offer green mortgages and has been doing so since 1981. For more information about Ecology’s approach, visit www.ecology.co.uk

About George Clarke.

George Clarke is an architect, writer, lecturer and one of the most successful property TV presenters on UK television. George became the face of architecture at Channel 4 with the launch of The Home Show in 2008, The Restoration Man in 2009 and the campaign series The Empty Homes Show that was transmitted in 2011 and 2012. He became the Empty Homes Ambassador in 2012.

Ends
For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450
Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk

Next areas to receive new bin service announced

The next areas to benefit from more frequent green bin collections have been revealed.

Around 100,000 properties in west, north west and north east Leeds will have their black bins emptied one week and green bins emptied the next.

Preparations to roll out the new service to all suitable homes in Adel and Wharfedale, Alwoodley, Bramley and Stanningley, Calverley and Farsley, Guiseley and Rawdon, Harewood, Horsforth, Middleton Park, Otley and Yeadon, Pudsey and Wetherby are well underway. It’s expected that people living in these areas will switch to updated collection schedule in November 2013.

In addition, some suitable properties in parts of Armley, Kirkstall and Weetwood wards, along with a very limited number of properties in Farnley and Wortley and Ardsley and Robin Hood wards will be included in the next phase of the new service.

The experiences and lessons learned from introducing the service to homes in the first phase have helped shape the plans for this next phase.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment said:

“Bin collections are one of the most visible council services and changes on this scale means we need to take a considered, staged approach.

“The evidence from phase one clearly shows that we can up the amount of recycling we collect and send less to landfill by increasing the frequency of green bin collections.

“Our experience of introducing this service to 56,000 homes back in April and the lessons we’ve learned means that we can help everyone through the changes.

“With residents continued support we can maintain and exceed our recycling ambitions.”

Residents will once again be receiving a handy information pack and the Waste Doctors – the council’s specialist recycling advisers – will be hosting roadshows and attending events to offer residents advice on how to get the most out of their green recycling bin.

Since the service launched in April to around 56,000 homes in Kippax, Methley, Garforth, Swillington, Morley, Ardsley, Robin Hood, a small part of New Farnley and additional properties in Rothwell, residents have recycled more and less waste has been sent to landfill

By 2015 the service will be rolled out to 80% of homes in Leeds when the council expects to save £2.5 million a year; funds that will pay for vital council services.

As well as financial savings, enabling residents to recycle more at home will have environmental benefits; valuable resources will be turned into new goods and harmful carbon emissions from waste will be cut.

The increased frequency of green recycling bin collections has been led by demand from Leeds residents.

During a consultation on the council’s waste strategy, people told the council they wouldn’t need their black bins emptied each week if their recycling bin was emptied more often.

Residents keen to get into the swing of recycling now can find details of the new service at www.leeds.gov.uk/newbinservice or www.facebook.com/leedswastedocs or by following @leedswastedocs on Twitter.
To facilitate the move to the new service some collection days may for change. Residents will be advised well in advance of any changes to collection days before the new service starts.

Bin collection days can be checked at www.leeds.gov.uk/ Check-your-bin-day.aspx.

In the meantime, residents are reminded that bins should be put out by 7am on collection day and put away as soon as possible. If going on holiday, don’t forget to ask a neighbour to put out and return your bin for you.

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577
email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk