From derelict properties to homes for those with acute housing needs - the story of LATCH and how community shares is helping to solving a cash conundrum.
Thousands of people with acute housing needs and thousands of empty properties. The perverse situation in Leeds is mirrored in towns and cities across the UK, But Leeds Action to Create Homes (LATCH) is turning derelict houses into homes and transforming lives. Putting roofs over heads is not LATCH’s sole concern.
The Co-operatives UK member supports its tenants to make positive change through an approach that’s bespoke, people-centric and empowering. LATCH CEO, James Hartley, said: “To change habits and ways of thinking is really challenging. For people to just have a house is a massive success.
"There’s multiple successful outcomes: getting into work; making friendships in the community; reconnecting with family members.”
The model is sustainable, with those in supported housing encouraged and supported to move into independent living when ready, allowing new tenants to move in. The one limit to expanding the property portfolio is money. Grant aid, a traditional form of LATCH finance, can be precarious while borrowing, despite working with ethical banks, is costly. As an alternative, LATCH turned to community shares – a unique form of equity available to co-operatives and community benefit societies.
James said: “The thought was ‘let’s see if the citizens of Leeds want to help LATCH’. We viewed that people are interested in using their money for social benefit.” Co-operatives UK supported LATCH with their share offer – and the people of Leeds certainly responded.
Using the Ethex platform, LATCH raced to its £550,000 target; that’s more than half a million towards building positive lives and independent futures through a unique package of housing, training and support.
James said: “It was the most incredible experience. In one day alone we added £80,000. My mother-in-law even invested – so she’s now my boss! When the profile of investors came in, there’s a significant amount of people from Leeds. They’ve seen the juxtaposition of empty houses, homeless people.
"They know we’ll use the money to create positive change. There’s 150 investors. They’re the people of LATCH now.”
As a sustainable avenue for raising more funds, LATCH could issue further community share offers in the future. But without initial support from Co-operatives UK and the Community Shares Booster Programme (CSBP), the project may not even have got off the ground.
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The CSBP, funded by Power to Change and delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with Locality, provides development grants of up to £10,000 to prepare the community share offer. It also provides match equity investment – typically matching pound for pound up to £100,000.
The share offer also received the Community Shares Standard Mark, the stamp of good practice. James added: “It shows there’s a level of rigour in the process; gives confidence that we’re doing something that’s coherent and sensible. I felt it made us stronger and gave more confidence in the share offer. For investors it clears any decks of concern."
That money will now transform lives. James added: "I am a realist. It’s important to recognise that it’s challenging to help people with acute needs. It’s difficult but we’ve a successful model.”