To receive a report from the Group Manager for Public Health and Regulatory Services presenting a revised Housing Assistance Policy under Article 4 of the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 following the one year review of the existing policy that was agreed and adopted in February 2018 (Housing Assistance Policy 2018-19).
The Group received a report * from the Group Manager for Public Health and Regulatory Services presenting a revised Housing Assistance Policy under Article 4 of the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 following the one year review of the existing policy that was agreed and adopted in February 2018 (Housing Assistance Policy 2018-2019).
The following was highlighted within the revised policy:
· The policy aimed to provide a targeted consistent approach to providing funding where it was most needed. The Government was encouraging council’s to allow people to stay in their homes wherever they could.
· The Better Care Fund (BCF) intentionally provides more funding to Devon than is currently required to meet the demand for mandatory Disabled Facility Grant’s (DFG) only. A wider policy was now needed to allow the Devon councils to spend the BCF on assistance that helped a wider range of households and met the broader BCF objectives. In addition there had been changes to the ECO flex fund and therefore this needed to be reflected in the Statement of Intent (SOI).
· The delivery of the DFG programme was mandatory and a statutory function of the local housing authority. There were no proposed changes to this part of the policy other than to introduce clarification that additional works specifically required to manage disability caused by dementia or related conditions were eligible.
· The policy was designed to have more flexibility thereby reducing the process time previously endured by people needing help quickly.
· It was AGREED that in section 4.5, under ‘Eligibility’ the first bullet point be removed from the policy.
· ECO3 supports low income, vulnerable and fuel poor households meaning that all measures should be delivered to these groups. The scheme helped homes to reduce their energy bills and consequently tackled fuel poverty and vulnerability to the cold. However, one key change was that funding would not be available for replacement of oil or coal heating systems. In future, systems would be funded under schemes that sourced renewables such as air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers.
The following was discussed with regard to the Statement of Intent:
· Private homeowners qualified to apply through ECO flexible eligibility subject to meeting category 1 and category 2 eligibility criteria. Private tenants and residents of park homes would be eligible regardless of income.
· A reasonable gross household income for a couple had been set at £38k.
· If a large expensive adaptation had taken place on a property and then the tenant had passed away a charge would be place on the property in order to recoup some if not all of the costs.
· Mention of ‘Pregnant mothers’ in Category 2 of the SOI should be amended to read ‘Pregnant women’.
· It was felt that the ‘at risk’ categories were very broad and that it would be helpful to keep a watching brief on this and review categorisations in a year’s time once more data was available.
RECOMMENDED to the Cabinet that:
a) The revised Housing Assistance Policy 2019-22 attached in Annex 1 be approved.
b) The ECO Flex Statement of Intent (SOI) attached in Annex 4 associated with the revised Housing Assistance Policy be approved.
c) Delegated authority be given to the Group Manager for Public Health and Regulatory Services in consultation with the Cabinet member for Housing to make minor adjustments to the policy based on demand and local priorities.
d) Delegated authority be given to the Group Manager for Public Health and Regulatory Services in consultation with the Cabinet member for Housing to suspend some or all non-mandatory parts of the revised Housing Assistance Policy attached in Annex 1 (all elements of the Policy other than section 4.1 Disabled Facilities Grants) if adequate funding is not available.
(Proposed by Cllr F W Letch and seconded by Cllr P J Heal)
Note: * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.