Published: December 3, 2015
In support of Empty Homes Week, 30 November to 6 December 2015
Unity Trust Bank, a challenger bank with a social conscience and a long time investor in housing and community development, is calling for continued investment in bringing empty homes back into use as part of Empty Homes Week.
The Bank has been working to reduce empty homes in England by providing additional loan finance to support the Empty Homes Community Grants programme, which allowed community-led organisations to apply for grant funding from the government. The government funding ended in March 2015.
According to the report – Empty Homes in England – by campaigning charity the Empty Homes Agency, there are 610,123 empty dwellings across England.[i] The current government’s 2015-18 Affordable Homes programme allows landlords to include work on empty homes in their development plans, but unlike the previous programme there is no dedicated fund for empty homes.
Bringing an ethical alternative to mainstream finance, Unity has lent over £3.1m to eight community-led organisations between 2013 and 2015, helping to house over 180 individuals according to the Bank’s social impact data.[ii]
Darrin Nightingale at Unity Trust Bank, said: “As a bank dedicated to creating social impact with our lending, Unity supports the aims of Empty Homes Week to encourage bringing empty homes back into good use. We believe it’s crucial that the National Affordable Homes programme continues to back investment in this area and that community-led groups should play a part in providing local solutions to this issue. By supplementing the previous Empty Homes Community programme with our customer lending, we have been able to support the creation of local jobs and housing. This work is crucial to investing in deprived neighbourhoods and ensuring more and more empty homes are refurbished and benefit those in housing need. Unity will continue to invest in local projects and we invite organisations to contact us to discuss their borrowing needs.”
2014 saw Unity invest in a diverse range of projects including Yorkshire based Canopy Housing, which renovates derelict and empty properties with volunteers and homeless people, who then become tenants. By training unemployed people in construction skills and creating jobs, Canopy improves community cohesion and contributes to the regeneration of disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Unity provided a £380k loan to enable Canopy Housing to purchase 12 properties in Leeds, supported with grant funding of £664k via the Empty Homes Community Grants programme. The two, four bedroom, properties were all completed by March 2015.
Steve Hoey, Director of Canopy Housing, said: “Our partnership with Unity and the additional support from the Empty Homes Community Grants programme has helped Canopy house 12 families in need of affordable homes, all of whom were trained as skilled volunteers working on their homes prior to moving in. Thanks to the purchase, Canopy has increased its rental income, and is partnering with Unity in the future to buy five additional properties over the next two years. The future is bright for Canopy – alongside other community led housing organisations we have formed the Leeds Community Homes coalition and are working to enable 1,000 new affordable and sustainable homes to be built in the region over the next 10 years.”
For more information visit www.unity.co.uk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.