The Housing Market Renewal Initiative (Pathfinder) was a package of policies introduced by the Labour government in 2002 to address housing market failure in nine regeneration zones located in the north of England. When this initiative closed in 2010, the government had spent £2.2bn of public money to acquire for demolition over 10,000 properties; yet only 1,000 new homes had been built in their place. Pathfinder intended to provide decent family housing in sustainable locations, however, it now appears that boarded-up houses and demolition sites, rather than newly built houses, will be its legacy.
We started our Empty Homes Fund in 2002 to improve housing conditions, increase the supply of affordable housing and prevent homelessness. In addition to the demise of Pathfinder, the UK as a whole is currently suffering a chronic undersupply of new homes; this is due to the credit crunch, which has caused a contraction in the building industry and resulted in an acute shortage of suitable housing. With many new build development sites now stalled, existing housing stock refurbishment in regeneration zone areas is essential; this is where our Society’s resources are currently focused.
In cases where a property has no serious structural issues, such as chronic damp or subsidence, we intend to continue to use fund monies in three ways:
- to acquire empty properties in order for them to be refurbished up to decent homes standard and brought back into habitable use for affordable housing.
- to provide a Shared Equity Loan of between £3,000 to £30,000 to residential property owners who are wishing to substantially improve the condition of their vacant properties; in lieu of interest being charged, the borrower agrees to pay the fund a share of the property’s value after five years and must also agree for their property being let, during the loan period, to provide accommodation for those in housing need.
- to provide a Shared Equity Loan to first time buyers who wish to purchase and live in the renovated properties; this interest free loan will be secured as a second charge, after a low-rate mortgage, and assist affordability.