Bournemouth Borough Council Environment & Community Services Directorate Environmental Health & Consumer Services Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy POLICY FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT 2004/05 Published in July 2004 Bournemouth Borough Council Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy POLICY FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT 2004/05 1.0 1.1 Background This financial assistance policy is part of the Council’s Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy and is a revision of the policy published in July 2003. It should be read in conjunction with the Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy, which is available on the Council’s website at www.bournemouth.gov.uk Since adoption of the Strategy, the Council has entered into a Public Service Agreement and secured additional funding from the South West Housing Body’s Single Housing Investment Pot (SHIP). The commitments linked to these initiatives have been taken into account in developing the policy. Public Service Agreement (PSA) Housing Target This target commits the Council to improving 30 privately owned houses a year to the Decent Home Standard. This standard is outlined in Appendix 4 of the Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy. Occupiers must be ‘vulnerable’ people and a definition of this, based on eligibility for means tested benefits, has been agreed with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). As part of the agreement we receive a ‘pump priming’ grant of £75,000 over the 3 years of the scheme. The South West Housing Body’s Single Housing Investment Pot (SHIP) The bid for this funding, which is to support work to improve homes to the Decent Home Standard, was made jointly with the Borough of Poole. Bournemouth’s share of the amount awarded is as follows: 3.2 £282,187 for equity release loans for owner occupiers who are classed as vulnerable £148,937 for grants for landlords who have tenants who are classed as vulnerable. 1.2 2.0 2.1 3.0 3.1 In addition to the funds outlined above, £550,000 has been allocated to private sector housing renewal from the Council’s existing housing capital pot and there is also a budget of £450,000 for mandatory disabled facilities grants, helping to meet the needs of Social Services clients. 4.0 4.1 Outline of Financial Assistance Schemes The schemes for financial assistance for home improvement, outlined below, are being introduced during the current year. Decent Homes Loans and Grants for improving homes to the Decent Home Standard where the occupiers of the property are classed as vulnerable. Loans are for owner occupiers and grants are for both owner-occupiers and landlords. Small Works Grants for owner occupiers to pay for minor urgent repairs, works needed to enable a person to return to their own home following a period in hospital or other care, and security works. Energy Efficiency Grants and Schemes. 4.2 To be eligible for any assistance, the applicant must be legally entitled to carry out the work or obliged to pay for the work under the terms of a lease and all owners must consent to the work being carried out. The availability of financial assistance will depend on there being adequate funding to meet demand. Mandatory Disabled Facilities Grants are available for adaptations to homes to enable a disabled person to live more independently. They are funded separately from other private sector housing renewal and are delivered as part of the Council’s Adaptations Service. The provisions for these grants are contained in the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, as amended by the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England & Wales) Order 2002. Decent Homes Loans and Grants for Owner Occupiers The target group is owner-occupiers in receipt of one or more of the following benefits: Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance Working Tax Credit Child Tax Credit with an annual household income not exceeding £14,200 Guarantee Pension Credit 4.3 4.4 5.0 5.1 5.2 Although this scheme is aimed at achieving the Decent Home Standard, in cases where a house is unfit and the owner-occupier cannot cope with all the work, the full standard will not be required. In these circumstances, work needed to make the home fit for habitation will receive assistance. In all cases, assistance will also cover the necessary ancillary costs incurred in arranging the loan or grant and carrying out the work. 5.3 The assistance will be either an equity release loan, a grant or a combination of the two, depending on the amount of equity that the owner-occupier has in the property. If there is sufficient equity, the applicant will be expected to take out a loan. In other cases, a grant or combination of grant and loan will be given and the applicant will be able to retain a proportion of the equity. The Equity Release Loan will be interest free. It will be repayable when the property changes hands or at any earlier time the owner wishes. If house prices fall and the amount of available equity is less than the amount of the loan at the time the house is sold, the Council will waive the right to claim back all or part of loan. The Council’s financial interest will be registered as a legal charge against the property. Grants will be available to those for whom equity release is not suitable or as a top up to a loan where the money released is not sufficient to cover the cost of all the necessary work. The grant will be 100% of the eligible expense. It will be a condition of the grant that the applicant undertakes to live in the property for 5 years after completion of the work. The Council may claim back the amount of grant paid if the condition is not fulfilled. Normally the Council will not exercise this right if the move can reasonably be said to be out of the control of the owner. Decent Home Grants for Landlords These will be available to landlords for dwellings where the tenant is in receipt of one or more of the following benefits: Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance Working Tax Credit Child Tax Credit with an annual household income not exceeding £14,200 Guarantee Pension Credit 5.4 5.5 5.6 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 If the property is a house in multiple occupation, at least 50% of the tenants should be in receipt of a relevant benefit. These grants will also be available to landlords who take on empty houses and bring them back into use. Grant will cover the parts of the Decent Home Standard that are not statutory requirements for landlords and also the necessary ancillary costs incurred in arranging the grant and carrying out the work. Grant will not be available for work that landlords have a statutory responsibility to carry out and grant will not be paid unless the property complies with all relevant legal requirements. These requirements include being fit for habitation, in a reasonable state of repair, having planning and building regulation approval and, where appropriate, adequate fire precaution work. 6.5 It will be a condition of a grant that a landlord enters into an agreement with the Council allowing the Council to put forward prospective tenants for the property. The duration of the agreement will depend on the amount of grant paid. The agreement will require that when a property is empty upon completion of the work and when a property becomes vacant after completion of the work, the landlord should accept applicants for accommodation referred to him by the Council. The landlord will be able to reject an applicant he thinks unsuitable and the agreement will contain a mechanism for dealing with disputes over the suitability of an applicant. The Council may claim back the amount of grant paid if this condition is breached. The rate of grant payable will be determined using a ‘score sheet’ that rates the application by assigning a score to each of the following factors. 7.0 7.1 Membership of Bournemouth Private Sector Landlords’ Accreditation Scheme The condition of the property The number of units of accommodation when the work is complete Whether the work carried out to the exterior of the property will enhance the neighbourhood 6.6 Small Works Grant The target group is occupiers in receipt of: Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit with an annual household income not exceeding £14,200, Guarantee Pension Credit Or Over the age of 60 and occupying property in Council tax bands A, B, C or D. 7.2 Grant is 100% of the eligible expense up to a maximum of £5,000. 7.3 Eligible work will include urgent repairs, work needed to enable a person to return to their own home following a period in hospital or other care and security works. Energy Efficiency Grant This grant is targeted at vulnerable people who do not qualify for the nationally available Warm Front grants. To be eligible, owner-occupiers or tenants must either be in receipt of one or more of the following benefits: Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit with an annual household income not exceeding £14,200, Guarantee Pension Credit Or Over the age of 60 and occupying property in Council tax bands A, B, C or D. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The grant is for cavity wall insulation, loft insulation (including top ups), hot water cylinder jackets and draught proofing. The amount paid is 100% of the eligible expense up to a maximum of £1,000. Other Energy Efficiency Schemes Other energy efficiency schemes, targeting the types of property that are not appropriate for a traditional energy efficiency grant, will be considered. Provided there is sufficient funding, schemes will be carried out if they offer value for money and contribute towards the overall aims of the Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy. 9.0 9.1 10.0 Access To Financial Assistance 10.1 Persons wishing to enquire about grant aid should contact Care Direct on 01202 454979 for help with adaptations for a disabled person and the Council’s Housing Grants Section on 01202 451334 for help with other home improvements. If these contact numbers change, the new numbers will be publicised. Financial assistance is delivered in partnership with Help and Care, the local Home Improvement Agency. 11.1 Review of Policy 11.2 The policy is being brought into effect in the 2004/05 financial year and will be reviewed later in the year to establish a policy for 2005/06. The uptake of loans and grants will be monitored and should circumstances indicate a need for a change to the policy during 2004/05, an earlier review will be carried out. 12.0 Consultation 12.1 Consultation on the financial assistance package has taken place with key stakeholders. These include: 12.2 Developing Communities and Tackling Crime Scrutiny and Review Panel, Officers in Central Services, Environment and Community Services, and Social Services, Bournemouth Housing Forum Bournemouth Primary Care Trust Disability Wessex Dorset Energy Advice Centre Dorset Residential Landlords’ Association Help and Care Poole Borough Council Springbourne and Boscombe West Neighbourhood Management Board Comments, which were generally supportive, have been taken into account in preparing this policy. 13.0 References Bournemouth Borough Council Private Sector Housing Renewal Strategy 2003 – 2006. For further information please contact Penny Austin on 01202 451307 or e-mail email@example.com Large print and audio versions of this document are available on request from Bournemouth Borough Council. If English is not your first language the Council will arrange for a translated summary to be made available to you, and if you require further information, arrangements will be made for a translator to explain the contents of the document to you. Contact Penny Austin, Group Manager 01202 451307 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Español Si el Idioma Ingles no es su primera lengua, el Ayuntamiento le facilitara un sumario de su traduccion. Si usted necesita alguna aclaracion o informacion mas detallada, se pondra a su disposicion la ayuda de un traductor, para que el pueda esplicarle el contendio de dicho documento.