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September 09, 2003
Community Investment Bond Helps House the Learning Disabled in the UK

The UK arm of Triodos Bank issues a bond that supports Golden Lane Housing, a UK charity that provides housing to people with learning disabilities.

Investors in the UK are increasingly embracing community investment, or the practice of investing in underserved communities and population segments. This embrace is sparking innovations on meeting various social needs. One such innovation is a recent bond issue to raise funds for building housing for people with learning disabilities.

The UK arm of Triodos Bank, which was founded in the Netherlands in 1980 and exclusively finances enterprises that add social, environmental, or cultural value, recently issued bonds to support Golden Lane Housing. Mencap, a UK-based charity for children and adults with learning disabilities, established Golden Lane Housing in 1998 to address the chronic shortage of housing for the learning disabled.

Mencap estimates that about 29,000 people with a severe or profound learning disability in the UK live in a family home supported by a parent aged 70 or over. What will happen when these elderly parents pass away? Many learning disabled people will be left scrambling for housing, with little support from the public sector. At present, the UK government only provides grants to support registered social landlords delivering 300 to 700 bed-spaces a year, according to Mencap.

"Mortgages can be difficult to secure for a person with a learning disability, private landlords can be reluctant to offer a long-term home, and there is an acute shortage of social housing," said Mark McGoogan, development manager for Golden Lane Housing.

"Competition for places is fierce, and when a property does finally become available, landlords seldom offer the support and understanding needed to reassure people with a learning disability, their parents and carers," he added.

Golden Lane Housing, which currently provides homes for about 400 adults with learning disabilities, intends to raise 163.4 million through the bond issue. An investment of 1,000 will support housing for a person with a learning disability for one year, and a 25,000 investment will provide a home for a lifetime.

"Mencap's Golden Lane Housing bonds are a unique opportunity to make a real difference to people with a learning disability," said Brian Baldock, Mencap's chairman. "Without a decent place to live, they lose their independence and face an uncertain future, but with the right home, they can flourish and make a real contribution to their community."

The bonds, which will mature on a 10-year fixed term, will earn one percent more than annual rate of inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index. In other words, if the inflation rate is 2.5 percent, the bond's interest rate will be 3.5 percent (but no greater than 6.5 percent, in accordance with the bond's prospectus). And the bond will not be restricted to UK investors.

"The bonds are available to US investors, but they should the read the section of the prospectus on overseas investors to be fully informed," said Michele Harris, Mencap's senior public relations officer.

"Golden Lane Housing has given me the chance to take control of my life: I can make my own decisions and, with the right support, live independently," said Hazel Whitfield, who lives on her own in a Golden Lane House in Clitheroe, Lancashire, with 17 hours of support a week. "I have been one of the lucky ones, and I hope there can be many more people like me."


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