A Trustee’s perspective: transforming loan finance into quality homes for disabled veterans

Jul 30, 2020

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The people of Derby knew they wanted a fitting memorial to the men who had fought in World War II. Rather than erect another monument, they decided to provide housing for some of the veterans who had returned home.

More than 70 years later, War Memorial Village Derby is still home to several of those original veterans. Their neighbours in the Memorial Village are other ex-service men and women, many of whom have been disabled in the line of duty.

The trustees of War Memorial Village Derby have recently embarked on an ambitious programme of work to revamp the village. Phase one has seen six outdated properties replaced with nine modern new homes, with the help of a £600,000 loan from Charity Bank. Harvey Jennings, Chair of War Memorial Village Derby, explains why the charity took the bold step of taking out its first ever loan to fund the new homes.

Why have you decided to replace six properties with nine new homes?

The old properties were built between 1949 and 1952. Although they were classed as suitable for disabled people at the time, they weren’t up to modern standards. The top floor flats couldn’t even be accessed by wheelchairs.

The new properties are one-bedroom bungalows. They’re all fully-accessible and have wider doorways. They have underfloor heating, so there are no radiators to get in the way. They all have solar panels and will be heated by air source heat pumps, so running costs will be lower. And we’ve included electric car charging points, which can also be used for mobility scooters.

Could you have achieved the redevelopment without loan finance?

No. We’ve had a government grant of £300,000 towards the rebuild and committed £300,000 of our own money. We’re always fundraising, but the overall cost of the project is around £1.2 million, so we needed a loan.

Why did you choose Charity Bank for your loan?

I’d heard about Charity Bank so did a lot of research and decided it was the best option for us as a charity. It’s a very worthwhile organisation.

How did you weigh up the risks and benefits of taking out the loan?

It’s the first time we’ve ever had a property loan, but it was a unanimous decision by the trustees. We want our residents to have modern homes with affordable day-to-day running costs. We felt as trustees that it was our responsibility to regenerate the village.

We have a dedicated team of solicitors and accountants, and carried out all the due diligence needed. The loan repayments will be covered by the rental cost of the new properties.

Do you have people waiting to move in?
There’s always a waiting list! We have a steady flow of applications. Our residents are mainly elderly, but there are younger veterans, from the Falkland’s and Iraq wars for example. Most of the homes are occupied by couples but we have quite a few single people too.

How did Charity Bank help you through the process?

We met with Peter Hughes from Charity Bank several times to discuss the loan before we took it on. He gave us all the information we needed to be able to make the decision. We’re two months away from completion and are still in contact with Peter regularly. It’s been so helpful to have one point of contact.

What guidance would you have for other charities who are thinking of taking out a loan?

I’d recommend making sure you know how you’re going to value your building and anything else that you plan to use as collateral to support a loan. You need to clearly evidence how you will fund the loan repayments. And be prepared for a lot of paperwork!

In the wider context, what changes would you like to see to support veterans?

The issue of homeless veterans is a particular problem at the moment; a lot of homeless people are ex-military who can’t access housing. The government should prioritise ex-service people when it comes to housing.

In Derby, we have a wonderful partner in Derby Homes, who manage properties on behalf of the council. We’ve employed them to manage our properties and they’re helping to drive us forward.

What’s next for War Memorial Village Derby?

We plan to completely revamp the village over the next 20 years. This first phase is focusing on one bedroom homes because there’s a real issue of people wanting to downsize and not being able to find somewhere to move to. The next phases will focus on larger homes.

But we don’t want to stop there. We’re looking at partnerships to create smaller versions of the village in other areas around Derby. We’re also considering leasing additional properties to let to veterans. And we want to inspire local authorities across the country to follow our model. What we’re doing here in Derby could be a solution for housing veterans on a national scale.

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1000 loans totalling over £300m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.