“Banks says they want to support non-profits, but they won’t lend us money. Thankfully, Charity Bank and Big Issue Invest have been brilliant.” Read our interview with Ann Martin, CEO of Birmingham Supported Living 2010.
You offer a range of supported living accommodation but have always leased your properties. Why did you decide to buy this one rather than just take on another lease?
Owning property will give us more stability and more control, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to buy more of our properties. We can now consider doing things that we've never before thought possible, like offering a respite unit.
Were you nervous about buying your first property?
Yes, because it was our first time. The pandemic meant that the purchase took a really long time – two years altogether. The biggest stumbling block was getting planning permission; we needed to agree a change of use, so there was a lot of back and forth with the council until they were happy with everything. But we got there in the end! We’re continually being asked if we've got any vacancies, so the rooms will fill up really quickly.
How do the loan repayments compare to what you would have been paying in rental costs?
It’s a significant difference – the monthly repayments are way below what we would pay for a lease.
Why did you choose this property?
It’s an old hotel next door to one of our leased properties. This type of building works well for us, as it already has multiple ensuite bedrooms, as well as communal spaces and gardens. Having several people on one site makes it much easier to offer support and keep everyone safe. The people who come to us have often been in and out of hospital for several years. They’re now feeling more settled, but they still need some support. We’re providing them with a stepping stone to independent living.
With this new property, we can offer 11 rooms, each with an ensuite bathroom. There’s also a communal dining room, living room, kitchen and laundry room. At the bottom of the garden is an old summer house, which we plan to renovate to use for music or crafts.
Could you have bought the property without a loan?
No, we couldn't have bought it without the money from Charity Bank.
How did your directors feel about getting a loan?
They've been incredible – the driving force behind the purchase. They said, “You’ve got stuck paying all this money out for rent, it’s ridiculous; you need to buy somewhere.” They’ve really pushed us in the right direction and helped us get to the point where we could apply for a loan.
Why did you choose Charity Bank and Big Issue Invest for your loans?
Other banks wouldn’t lend to us! They all wanted personal guarantees, which we couldn't give. Everyone says they want to support charities, but when it actually comes down to lending us money, they won't do it. So, I contacted Big Issue Invest and they suggested that we also speak to Charity Bank.
The two organisations were very supportive of us and worked well together. In the end, we borrowed 65% of what we needed from Charity Bank and the rest from Big Issue Invest. There were no problems at all; they were both brilliant. It’s also nice to know that our repayments will be regenerated to help other non-profits.
What support did you get from your Charity Bank relationship manager?
Mark was great – very supportive, very patient, and if we had any issues, I could talk them out with him.
Have you received any grant funding as a result of the loan?
Not yet, but I’ve submitted an application to the National Lottery Community Grant Fund to help with the refurb costs. We couldn’t have applied if we were leasing the property.
What would you say to other non-profits who want to buy their first property?
Make sure that you’ve got your house in order. You need to have your accounts in order, a solid business plan in place and really understand where you want to go and how you want to get there.
If you need a loan for your non-profit, please call Charity Bank on 01732 441919.
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 1,200 loans totalling over £450m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.
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.