More than £670,000 is being made available by Chichester District Council as part of a new policy designed to raise standards of accommodation in the private and private rented sectors.

The council's Housing Standards Financial Assistance and Enforcement Policy was approved by Full Council at its meeting on Friday 12 March following a public consultation held last November.

Last year, to help shape the new policy, the council commissioned a housing stock survey for the district. This was to establish the overall condition of property in the district and to highlight areas of concern that require improvement.

The report identified that an estimated 14% (6,768) of the private sector stock (all stock excluding housing association properties), and 12% (1,281) of the private rented sector had a Category 1 Housing Health and Safety hazard for Excess Cold.

It also estimated that 13.2% (6,535) of private sector dwellings and 9.9% (1,063) of private rented dwellings had an Energy Performance Rating below Band E.

In addition, the survey found that a significant number of homes were without cavity wall insulation or did not have a substantial level of loft insulation.

As part of the new policy the council will:

1. Help tackle cold homes and reduce fuel poverty by expanding the eligibility criteria for the Chichester Warm Homes Initiative and by offering a low carbon measures.

2. Continue to work with landlords to improve the standard of rented properties through the Chichester Landlord Accreditation scheme

3. Assist homeowners that can't afford to make repairs to their homes by continuing to offer Home Repairs Assistance, and

4. Support those who are disabled by continuing to offer Discretionary Disabled Facilities Grants.

"One of the key objectives in our housing strategy is to ensure that everyone in the district has access to suitable and safe housing which is in a good condition," explains Councillor Alan Sutton, Cabinet Member for Housing, Communications, Licensing and Events, at Chichester District Council. "A cold home can have a significant impact on someone's health, and increases the risks of certain conditions. Every year cold homes are a significant contributor to the level of excess winter deaths in the UK and so we really want to help those residents who are struggling.

"Our policy is designed to support homeowners who are on low incomes and who may be in fuel poverty. This is where households can't afford to keep warm because the cost of heating their homes is higher than average, and paying for this would leave them below the poverty line.

"The research carried out in our district shows that significant improvements in housing conditions and energy efficiency have been made over the last six years, particularly in the private rented sector. For example, the percentage of rented properties in the district with serious health and safety hazards has reduced from 22% to 12%.

"As a council, we are keen to build on this important work by continuing to offer support to those on low incomes to help pay for essential home repairs through the Home Repairs Assistance scheme. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we understand that more homeowners may be struggling financially at this time and so we are increasing the amount of funding available so that we can help more residents."  

In addition, the policy also enables the council to tackle private landlords who refuse to carry out repairs to properties which are legally required for their tenants' health and safety. A new Housing Standards Enforcement Policy will provide inspecting officers with a full range of powers to help raise property standards, including ensuring that landlords adhere to new electrical safety standards specifically for the private rented sector.

Date of Release: 15 March 2021

Reference: 3983