£500k loans available for social impact projects using historic buildings

A new £7m fund is to offer loans to social purpose organisations looking to acquire, reuse or redevelop historic buildings in the UK while delivering local economic and social benefits.

Launched today, the Heritage Impact Fund will offer tailored loan finance for charities, social enterprises and community businesses across the UK. Up to £500,000 will be available per project (the average size is expected to be around £200,000) for a duration of a few months up to three years, at varying interest rates.

The Heritage Impact Fund is a partnership – the first of its kind for the heritage sector – between the Architectural Heritage Fund (providing £1.42m), the National Lottery Heritage Fund (£2.25m), Historic England (£800,000), Historic Environment Scotland (£427,000) and Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service (£100,000). Rathbone Greenbank Investments will provide investment management and loan facilities.

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said the new fund is designed to be flexible and support organisations both within and outside the heritage sector: “The common link [is] the re-use of a heritage building and delivering local economic and social benefits.” A non-profit providing accommodation for homeless people in a heritage building, for example, could be eligible. 

The new fund is designed to be flexible... a non-profit providing accommodation for homeless people in a heritage building could be eligible

He added: “The fund can be used for almost any type of loan to support a project – from working capital during the construction phase, to capital to grow the scope of a business or to finance to acquire a property.”   

Up to 50 projects could benefit from the finance over the next five years. The impact of each project is expected to vary, but likely to include creating new jobs, training and volunteering opportunities, and the restoration and reuse of heritage buildings for various commercial and community uses.

Eligible buildings include those of historical or architectural importance: they may be listed (England alone has some 500,000 listed buildings), in a conservation area, or of special significance to the community. 

Alongside the new loan fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund is launching a new business support service to provide pro bono expertise and guidance to those needing help to transform or expand their business. The service will be particularly targeted at those completing a capital project or looking to scale up an existing enterprise.

The Architectural Heritage Fund, a specialist lender to UK heritage projects, has awarded loans worth £125m to over 900 heritage projects across the country since the 1970s. The Heritage Impact Fund is its first partnership loan fund.

The partnership is also the first of the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s initiatives to come out of its Strategic Funding Framework, which sets out plans to spend over £1bn on UK heritage between 2019 and 2024. 

Header photo: The Church and Monastery of St Francis in Gorton, Manchester. A trust set up to help save the building for the local community has had financial support (grant and loan finance) from the Architectural Heritage Fund.