Latch (Leeds Action To Create Homes Ltd) was established in 1989 and brings empty and run down homes back into use. It refurbishes the houses with unemployed volunteers, helping them to gain skills, confidence and work experience. When the homes are fully modernised, they provide supported housing for people who are homeless or in housing need.
LATCH works with other local organisations and aims to help regenerate the neighbourhoods in which it works by providing both housing and support, while at the same time building the confidence and skills of tenants and volunteers so that they can move on to lead independent lives. All tenants and volunteers/workers are shareholders in the organisation (Latch is a Community Benefit Society with Exempt Charitable Status).
Latch currently manages or owns 86 properties in the Chapeltown, Burley and Harehills areas of Leeds. It has fifteen members of staff and a turnover of around £700k.
Latch started out renovating disused properties obtained at low cost or on loan from their owners (such as the city council and friendly housing associations). Currently, 58 properties are owned by Latch and the remaining 28 are leased from partner organisations.
The staff team has a wide range of construction related skills and experience of working with volunteers and trainees. Contractors are used when required e.g. for gas and electrical works.
Latch has developed expertise in super-insulating its homes, fitting high spec underfloor, wall and loft insulation, along with airtightness measures, to make its old Victorian housing warm and substantially reduce fuel bills.
Latch houses single people and families who are homeless or in housing need, and need support to enable them to set up and sustain their tenancies e.g. women fleeing domestic violence, ex-offenders, people with mental health, drug or alcohol problems.
Latch activity is focused around three services:
- Supported Housing: Supporting tenants to move in to their homes and to have successful tenancies.
- Property Management: maintaining Latch housing, ensuring they are well looked after and meet all relevant standards.
- Housing Development: refurbishing newly acquired properties whilst providing employment, training and volunteering opportunities.
Funding New Housing
Over the years, Latch has been successful in securing grants from a variety of sources, to support its property renovation and development work.
From 2012-15 Latch secured grants of £979k through the DCLG Empty Homes Community Grants Programme to purchase and refurbish 15 empty properties, housing 39 adults and children. The Ecology Building Society provided loan finance to supplement this grant funding.
“This funding made a substantial contribution to the sustainability of LATCH” said James Hartley CEO ”The 15 properties we purchased increased the value of assets held by over 100% to £2.1 million and increased our revenue by 30%. Most importantly it enabled LATCH to meet the needs of more people in housing need and to use its new found financial strength to develop further housing”.
Accordingly since the EHCGP funding came to an end, Latch has continued to acquire and refurbish properties with the help of variety of funders:
- Empty Homes Three Latch worked closely with Leeds CC to develop a program to acquire and refurbish 16 more properties, known as Empty Homes 3. Leases on 13 properties already managed by Latch and in the ownership of Leeds CC were extended to 99 years, making it possible to raise loan finance against them and grant funding was raised from Leeds CC through the Right to Buy Receipts Grants Programme which the local authority is running. This 16 home programme was also supported by £100,000 from LandAid and £105,000 form Nationwide Foundation and loan funding from Triodos bank of £1.1m. This project completed in December 2018.
- Empty Homes Four: The follow on project called Empty Homes Four started in January 2019 and aimed to create 8 new homes over the following 12 months. The 8 properties have been purchased as of October 2019, with 3 completed and let and 5 more due to complete over the next 3 months. This project was funded by Leeds City Council right to buy grant of £205k, a £25k grant from LandAid and a loan from Leeds City council of £680,000.
- Connect Partnership: A new project commencing in October 2019 is in partnership with Connect Housing and Canopy Housing. Using Homes England funding this partnership will see 28 new homes created. Latch will create 10 new homes for our clients over the next 14 months and then manage these on behalf of Connect Housing.
- Latch Creates: Another new project starting in October 2019 is called Latch Creates. This involves the purchase and conversion of a 5 bedroom property into 4 high quality self-contained flats over the next 15 months. Funding of approx. £26K has been obtained from the Homes in Community Hands fund for the pre-development works, (primarily the planning and design works). The purchase and conversion will be funded through a grant from Power to Change Community Business Fund of approx. £294K, a LCC right to buy grant of £130K and a loan from Triodos bank of approx. £150K.
This funding also covers the costs of an evaluation of the viability of Latch setting up an enterprise, (Latch Builds) that will offer property development services to other partners in the sector.
We are well placed and very busy for the next 12-18 months with the projects mentioned above. We are excited about these and look forward to exploring the viability of the Latch Builds venture. Looking a little further ahead we are exploring the option of undertaking a new build project on land we own and will be exploring options for additional partnership working to enhance the work we do to create homes for our clients.
Tel: 0113 2374482.