The Kirk's Housing and Loan Fund celebrates its 50th birthday

The Church of Scotland's Housing and Loan Fund is celebrating 50 years since its inception this June. Over the years more than 1,000 people have benefited from its work.

Housing and Loan Fund
Rev Fred Booth and his wife Ellen own their own home with the help of the Housing and Loan Fund

The Housing and Loan Fund for Retired Ministers and Widows and Widowers of Ministers was set up after the General Assembly of 1965 recognised the difficulties faced by ministers in providing their own house for retirement.

Initially, assistance was in the form of small loans of around £500 to £1,500 but, as of the end of 2018, the Fund now provides 212 houses.

The oldest tenant benefiting from the Fund is 95 years young, and the team has properties in nearly every local authority area in Scotland with the exception of Shetland and the Western Isles.

A source of reassurance and support

Housing and Loan Fund celebrates 50 years at a lunch during the General Assembly
Housing and Loan Fund celebrates 50 years at a Golden Jubilee lunch during the General Assembly. Pictured from left to right: Grahame Lees, Lin Macmillan, Ian Taylor and Willie McVicar.

Rev Alan McKean and his wife Stephanie are just one of the couples that the Fund has helped, allowing Alan the opportunity to retire whilst facing poor health.

"We couldn't have afforded a full rental house without the help of the Housing and Loan Fund," he said.

"The way my health has gone, it's really been beneficial to be able to retire and not have the mental pressure of having to go on working.

"The house itself is very comfortable – it's warm, it's cosy, and as we get older, we don't want the hassle of trying to stay warm.

"The community we live in is brilliant with really nice people, friendly and encouraging – they welcome you."

Whilst working on fixing issues with their new home at the beginning, Alan and Stephanie said the Housing and Loan team were "so helpful" and "went above and beyond" in arranging alternative accommodation for him and his wife.

Rev Fred Booth and his wife Ellen own their own home with the help of the Housing and Loan Fund.

"It means a great deal because, when I started in ministry, there was a house to move into for the minister. Then, as we grew through the years, we knew the time would come when we would need a house of our own, but where to find one?" Fred said.

"The team were very reassuring at that time, and we're very grateful to you."

Ellen added that, without the help the couple received, "It would have been really stressful for us, never having had any experience of going to banks and borrowing money."

"We had no idea what would be involved, as to how much we would be able to borrow and how much we would be paying back.

"It was a relief to discover that there was help available, and the whole process was painless, when we sat down and discussed how much we had and where the Housing and Loan Fund could help.

"We would definitely recommend the Housing and Loan Fund as people approach retirement.

"If we can reassure some ministers who perhaps haven't had the opportunity to think about retirement, that when that day comes the Fund will be there – that's a huge incentive to keep on going."

You can watch the full interviews in the video below, which was shown at this year's General Assembly.

50 years of supporting ministers and their families

The Housing and Loan Fund today presented their report to the General Assembly with Chairman of the Trustees, Rev Ian Taylor, remarking on the benefits that the Fund delivers.

Mr Taylor said: "Several years ago, the Housing and Loan Fund was described, at the General Assembly, as ‘one of the success stories of the Church'.

"Over 1,000 people have been assisted in one way or another over the last fifty years, and the Trustees are gratified that the Fund has benefited so many.

"The Fund is in a healthy position fifty years on, and the Trustees look forward to supporting more ministers and their families in the future."