Housing Assistance Policy
The policy aims to assist some of the most vulnerable people and families within the Borough. It will do this by targeting the following:-
A. Properties that require improvements to energy efficiency.
B. Properties that contain Category 1 hazards as defined in the Housing Act 2004.
C. Properties that require adaptations (Disabled Facilities Grants)
A. Properties that require improvements to energy efficiency
The Council has been successful in the past in tackling the problems faced by people living in homes that are not energy efficient. In 2012 the Department of Energy and Climate Change published national results of authorities recording levels of insulated housing stock in their Boroughs. South Ribble was recognised as 4th highest in the country. This brings health and wellbeing benefits to families and also environmental benefits overall. With the continuing rise in fuel bills and the impact this has on many families lives, priority will continue to be given to this.
The Council will
- Review the Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA) plan on an annual basis. This plan contains our targets for reductions on carbon emissions and the actions that the Council will take to achieve this. This plan will be reported to Government once every two years to fulfil its statutory duty.
- The Council will continue to maximise external funding to deliver against this priority. Funding streams will change over time but current examples are :-
- Working with suppliers and installers, the Council will maximise use of Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding to ensure the least energy efficient households benefit from the assistance.
- Mobile homes are the most thermally inefficient properties and are heated by oil or electric which are expensive fuels. The Council works with local installers and utilise the Green Deal funding to insulate these homes which will make them easier to heat.
- Working with Lancashire County Council, the Council will work to attract external funding to reduce incidents of winter deaths and provide assistance in the winter months
- Provide information to residents on the governments new Green Homes Voucher Scheme where applicable
- The Council will continue to monitor energy efficiency standards in Housing Association properties
- The Council may take enforcement action.
B. Properties that contain Category 1 hazards as defined in the Housing Act 2004
The Housing Act 2004 lists 29 hazards which may result in a Category 1 listing of a property. Category 1 is the most severe and is where the risk to the health of the people living there is substantial. Examples of what could result in a Category 1 hazard rating if the problem is severe enough are dampness, excess cold/heat: pollutants (e.g. asbestos, carbon monoxide), lack of space, security or lighting and poor hygiene facilities.
The Council has a statutory duty to act where it has knowledge of any Category 1 hazards which could damage the health of the inhabitants. This covers all tenures, and there are different ways in which the Council will discharge this duty.
In the case of Housing Association stock the Council places responsibilities on the Association to ensure its housing stock meets national standards.
The Council will help residents to reduce the numbers of properties with Category 1 hazards through:-
- Advice to landlords on how to meet their statutory obligations for the maintenance and improvement of their property.
- Provision of advice for tenants of Housing Associations and private sector rented housing.
- Signposting home owner occupiers to other advice and support services.
- Enforcement action may be taken.
- Provide assistance to ALL homeowners with solid walls and an EPC rating of E or less to insulate the home on a 50/50 basis with a land charge for 5 years.
- Provide assistance for cavity wall and loft insulation for those who do not meet Energy Company obligation criteria or for homeowners where they are required to contribute towards the cost of the works
- Provide assistance where a heating system has failed, provide 100% assistance to all homeowner's subject to a land charge for a period of 25 years or assistance of 50% where homeowners are able to meet some of the cost with a land charge of 5 years.
- Where CAT 1 hazards are identified householders are provided 100% assistance to all homeowner's subject to a land charge for a period of 25 years or assistance of 50% where homeowners are able to meet some of the cost with a land charge of 5 years.
All assistance will be subject to an affordability assessment.
C. Properties that require adaptations (Disabled Facilities Grants)
The Disabled Facilities Grant (D.F.G.s) is a grant which is administered under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. The Council has a legal duty to provide "reasonable and practicable" adaptations to houses to meet the care and mobility needs of those with disabilities. The Council recognises the importance this grant is to improving people's lives and the lives of the families which support them. Where residents have a disability we will work with them and other agencies to arrange adaptations or provide advice about moving to a more suitable home.
The detailed provisions relating to Disabled Facilities Grants are set out in Appendix 1 to this Policy. In particular this Policy changes the way the Council will deliver its Disabled Facility Grant. In March 2014 the Riverside Home Improvement Agency terminated its contract with Lancashire County Council. As a result the Borough Council has brought the service back in house. Where possible, processes have been streamlined with more accountability and transparency. The customer has more choice, and information on the process is more timely and customer friendly. The grant is targeted at those people and families in most need. There is a new relationship with Occupational Therapists with regular meetings and joint visits. This means that the Council's legal requirement to deliver works that are "reasonable and practicable "meet the needs of the customers.
Another significant change which has guided this new policy is in 2015/16 the government grant will be provided directly to upper tier authorities as part of a national review of Social Care legislation. The thrust of the legislation is to make people more responsible for choosing their care and support and the new proposals follow this ethos.
Interestingly, legislation covering responsibility for Disabled Facilities Grants has not changed. The Borough Councils are still responsible. Discussions are ongoing with Lancashire County Council (LCC). At this stage LCC are stating that the grant will be directly transferred to Borough Councils although, whether this situation continues in the medium/long term is unknown at the drafting of this Policy.