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Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall, Mold CH7 6NA

Contact: Tracy Waters 01352 702331 

Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of Chairman

Decision:

That Councillor Ron Hampson be appointed as Chairman for the meeting.

 

Minutes:

The Housing and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Facilitator sought nominations for a Chairman for the meeting.  Councillor George Hardcastle nominated Councillor Ron Hampson which was duly seconded and supported by the Committee. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

That Councillor Ron Hampson be appointed as Chairman for the meeting.

 

2.

Declaration of Interest (including Whipping Declarations)

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

3.

Tackling Long Term Vacant Private Homes pdf icon PDF 52 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

(a)       That the mechanisms for returning long term vacant private homes back in to use be noted;

 

(b)       That the progress the Council has made in delivering the Welsh Government Houses into Homes Scheme be noted;

 

(c)        That the proposed enforced sales policy and its use in Flintshire be supported; and

 

(d)       That an all Member workshop be arranged to consider the policies available to tackle long term vacant private homes in Flintshire.             

 

 

Minutes:

The Head of Housing introduced a report to provide Members with an understanding of the mechanisms available to tackle long term vacant private homes; an update on the progress of the Welsh Government (WG) Houses into Homes Scheme and to introduce to Members a proposed enforced sales policy, and to seek support for its use. 

 

                        The Head of Housing detailed the background to the report and explained that the number of vacant homes had been reducing over the last two years and the figure was now approximately 450 long term vacant private homes.  An annual review was undertaken and homeowners of empty properties were contacted to establish whether the Council could give them advice or guidance on how to bring their property back into use.  A small budget of £0.200m had been in place for empty homes but this had now significantly increased due to WG making available £20m of funding for the Houses into Homes Scheme across Wales.  The scheme was being delivered on a regional basis and Flintshire County Council was the lead authority for the scheme in North Wales.  Flintshire had so far claimed £0.950m and distributed that money by way of loans to bring homes into use and the Head of Housing spoke of six terraced properties in Flint which had been brought back into use as a result of the scheme.  The original aim of the loans was that they be repaid in two years if the owner wanted to sell the property, or in three years if the property was to be let. 

 

                        Councillor Rosetta Dolphin spoke of some large properties in Flintshire which had been vandalised and set on fire and too much work was now required by the owner to bring the properties back into use.  She also commented on other properties that had been refused planning permission to amend or demolish the property.  The Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager said that he was aware of the properties that Councillor Dolphin had referred to and that the Council was working proactively with the owners to try and bring the houses back into use, but added that lack of planning permission could be a barrier to moving forward and that it was hoped that this could be overcome by closer working with colleagues in Planning. 

 

                        Councillor Gareth Roberts referred to properties in his ward which were a blight on the community and the residents of the next door property.  He highlighted paragraph 3.06 and welcomed that the Housing Act had introduced the power to serve an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) which allowed the Council to service Notice on the owner of a long term vacant property, stating that it intended to take over all responsibility for the property, renovate it and let it out.  The Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager responded that each case would be looked at on its own merits.  Councillor Paul Shotton sought clarification on the timescales involved and the Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager explained that when owners had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Private Sector Housing Renewal pdf icon PDF 63 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

(a)       That the introduction of new Energy Efficiency loan product, to help deliver gas infill in communities across Flintshire, as outlined in the report, be supported;

 

(b)       That delegated authority to the Head of Housing to operate the Energy Efficiency loan scheme be supported;

 

(c)        That the introduction of the Welsh Government Property Improvement Loan initiative be supported with the final terms and conditions of the scheme to be delegated to the Chief Officer for Community & Enterprise and Chief Officer for People & Resources; and

 

(d)       That the additional clauses to be added to the Empty Homes assistance, relating to the minimum period of rental, being two years for a loan and five years for a grant and that the owner must consent to the property being managed by the Council’s chosen social lettings agency be supported. 

 

Minutes:

The Head of Housing introduced a report to introduce the proposed revisions to the Private Sector Renewal and Improvement Policy, along with the rationale for these revisions and to seek support for the changes proposed. 

 

            She detailed the background to the report and explained that the current Private Sector Renewal and Improvement Policy were approved in 2012.  The report covered three areas of change which she detailed.  Flintshire County Council already had a scheme in place for property appreciation loans which was a long term programme but the Welsh Government (WG) scheme required repayment within a fifteen year period.  The Head of Housing added that the scheme could provide additional opportunities for homeowners to improve homes. 

 

            The Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager commented on the energy efficiency aspects of the scheme and of the anticipated loans to private homeowners for gas infill and said that it was in the Council’s interest to provide assistance to homeowners.  It was proposed that two loan types be made available, one with a nominal interest rate at up to 2% for customers in receipt of a means tested benefit or spending more than 10% of their disposable income on fuel, and the other loan with a low interest rate of 6.25% which would cover the cost of administering the loan.

 

            In response to a query from Councillors Rosetta Dolphin and George Hardcastle about whether the rate would be altered during the period of the loan, the Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager said that even though a customer’s circumstances might change, it would not be possible to vary the terms of the loan once it was in place.  A charge would also be requested against the property in case of default of loan repayments and modelling work on the loan schemes had been undertaken to ensure its financial viability.  The Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager added that there was a need to ensure that robust affordability tests were undertaken which would include a customer’s income, savings and any regular repayments that they had to make.  Work would be undertaken with a local Credit Union to establish which rate of interest was appropriate for each applicant. 

 

            Councillor Ian Dunbar spoke of recommendations from the Audit Committee to tighten up on empty homes and the Housing Regeneration & Strategy Manager explained that the rights of the Council hold nominations rights in terms of lettings had not previously been adequately reflected in the policy document. 

 

            Councillor Paul Shotton highlighted paragraph 3.06 where it was reported that an annual fuel bill saving per household of £774 in Aston and Mostyn could be achievable as a result of the connection to gas using support from Flintshire County Council.  This saving would contribute to the cost of the loan repayments and would allow the householders to heat their homes more comfortably.  Councillor Shotton also referred to paragraph 3.21 where it was reported that the Council was expected to receive £0.250m in year 1, £0.500m in year 2 and potentially a further £0.250m in year 3  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Members of the public and press in attendance

Minutes:

There was one member of the press in attendance.

 

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