Not many people realise that there might be grants available to help with renovating a property. They aren’t easy to find out about and they are carefully screened to keep out property developers.
This means that the best approach is to plan the renovation that you want regardless then look around to see if any grants will be available.
Don’t build plans around a particular type of grant as you may not get it and that puts you back at the drawing board.
Local or district councils are the main place to look for grants. All have budgets for renovation grants and the restrictions on them differ from area to area. Generally you will need to be able to show some or all of the following:
- the property is seriously neglected.
- the repairs are critical.
- the residents are vulnerable.
- there is no other way to afford them.
These grants are usually limited to five or ten thousand pounds although in some regions in Northern Ireland the upper limit is £25,000.
The way that the money is used, should you get a local authority grant, is very important.
You are not allowed to mention to contractors that you are applying for a grant, or have got one, unless the council permits you to.
You will have to pay for the repairs up front and then reclaim against receipts, and the council will almost certainly inspect to see that the work has been done as described.
Finally, it is exceedingly rare that grants are awarded retrospectively, so make sure you get a copy of your council’s rules and follow them to the letter.
Councils are not the only sources of grants, however. Home improvement agencies (HIAs) are non-profit-making organisations run by local authorities, charities and housing associations.
Occasionally they will make grants to private owners or tenants if they are disabled, elderly or on a low income, to maintain, repair or adapt their homes.
To see if there is an agency operating in your area, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or ask your council.
You may find that there is a trust or charity that supports restoration of a particular architectural style or in a particular geographical area.
You might also find a local organisation that will fund a project even if it has no stated interest in buildings, if it can be shown to benefit the community.
Your main central library should have directories that will help you find likely candidate trusts and charities.
If you are one of a number of properties and households thinking of doing a joint project, consider forming a housing co-operative.
All co-operative organisations have a remit to donate grants that foster the spread of the co-operative movement, and so it’s possible to tap into those.
If you are renovating an older property then your chances of getting a grant are higher, but then also your renovation costs will be too!
Obviously English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw, the Northern Irish Environment and Heritage Service or the Republic of Ireland’s Office of Public Works (depending on where your property is) are worth approaching.
All will give grants to support the restoration of important buildings but will also want to oversee the work to ensure that it is done in a sympathetic manner.
Bear in mind that they are all heavily over-subscribed as well, so there’s no guarantee of a pay-out.
The Heritage Lottery Fund is worth trying although they are usually connected with substantial public projects rather than private dwellings. But if the property is in a prominent position in the community, they may assist.
One source for England and Wales that could be very useful is the Funds for Historic Buildings website, www.ffhb.org.uk, although some of the sources listed there will also cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. The FFB website also carries details of other sources for properties outside England and Wales.
With the current concerns over climate change the grants system for ‘green’ household modifications in England and Wales went through a recent overhaul, which bizarrely reduced the grants and the amount of money available.
However, in theory, you can still apply for grants to install systems such as ground source heat pumps, solar panels and wind turbines.
The amount of money available does not cover the costs to the individuals and there isn’t enough to satisfy demand, but perhaps this will change in time. In Scotland there is a similar scheme, the Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative.
Go For the Aggregate Approach
Once you know what grants might be available and what your angle will be for approaching the sources, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll get one grant that will cover everything.
You are far more likely (and again, even more likely with an old or architecturally significant building) to have to put together a whole raft of applications, some of which will fail and some of which may succeed.
But, put together, the successful ones might amount to a useful sum towards your renovation.