*File photo
*File photo

The Department of Planning is encouraging people to take advantage of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Interest-Free Loan Program for listed buildings; saying the program is not used as widely as it could be.

The program is available exclusively to the owners of buildings that have been listed as being of special architectural or historical interest under Section 30 (3) of the Development and Planning Act 1974. This loan can assist with the cost of major repairs, renovation, maintenance, restoration or approved alterations to a listed building.

“The Interest Free Loan Program, which began in 2001, is a way by which the Bermuda Government and Butterfield Bank can directly assist in the preservation and enhancement of Bermuda’s architectural heritage,” said the Minister of Home Affairs Sen. The Hon. Michael Fahy JP. “We want to get rid of the stigma of listed buildings being seen as a headache and so we offer several incentives to anyone looking to renovate a listed building. For example, with listed buildings you will not be charged a planning or building permit fee. Additionally, applications are fast-tracked and typically take four to six weeks to process from the date of receipt.”

The loan must be used to preserve or enhance a listed building. This includes major repairs, renovation or maintenance. This will include work to the roof, walls, windows, window frames, shutters, external doors, porches, verandahs, steps, chimneys etc. Where repairs are not possible, replacement windows, frames, shutters and external doors should be made from a material that matches the original.

The amount of interest free loan is normally limited to a maximum of $100,000 per property per financial year. The maximum repayment term is normally five years.

The Hatfield family recently took advantage of the interest free loan program offered by the Department of Planning when they decided to renovate their family home – “Topwood”. Topwood is a listed building built by William Gosling in 1952 and located in Paget on part of the original Highwood Property. It has architectural details that resemble traditional Bermudian styles including gable ends and a buttery in the entrance way, hence why it was deemed as a listed building.

Topwood is a Grade 3 listed building with windows and shutters that are over 50 years old.

“We didn't want to use PVC or aluminum and decided to go with wood to preserve the look of the property,” explained Stratton Hatfield. “The project amount was not inexpensive and we required a loan to complete the works. Our architect and some friends informed of us of the interest free loan scheme and we commenced the application process.

“After submitting three bids from contractors we received approval from the Department of Planning and were able to approach Butterfield Bank with a certificate. Since then we have worked with Butterfield to secure an interest free loan to fabricate and install 32 new windows in the house made with Accoya maintenance free wood built on-island. The loan process took about two months in total.”

Homeowners Chris and Holly Flook recently utilized the interest free loan program at the suggestion of The Department of Planning. They determined that this option was a cost effective means to assist with renovation costs associated with their Grade 1 listed home. The extensive refurbishment of ‘Ambleside’ involved replacing deconditioned doors, windows and an old bread oven. The program assisted the Flooks by providing an interest free loan for a portion of their costs over a period of five years.

“Our home was built between 1750- 1780,” Mrs. Flook said. “The building had fallen into disrepair over the years and we felt committed to saving this very special place. Written history leads us to believe the single room structure housed the St David’s lighthouse keeper one point.”

The loan WILL NOT apply to any extension or addition to the listed building that is not part of a restoration or any proposal that does not, in the opinion of the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee, preserve or enhance the special character of the listed building. The loan will not, generally, be made available for work to the interior of the building, except for structural work. However, HBAC has the discretion to declare internal work eligible for the loan if it relates to an exceptional interior feature such as a staircase or other fine period feature.

Anyone interested in securing a loan should contact the Heritage Officer, Richard Lowry at rmlowry@gov.bm or 297-7781 to discuss the eligibility of the proposals and the requirement for Planning and Building approvals.