The council’s Renewals Policy has existed for many years, and it aims to help ensure that as many houses as possible are available to be lived in by residents.
For the past few years the policy has helped bring dozens of empty homes back into use for homeless families, and has helped keep vulnerable and elderly people living independently and in their own homes for longer; rather than having to go into hospital or a nursing home.
The policy’s overall £1.2million budget is sizeable, but saves far more by preventing the council having to pay for care costs, or the health consequences of a poorly heated home for example.
We have now made a change to include a provision for financial assistance to owners of privately rented properties who do not have the means to comply with Selective Licensing criteria and whose tenants are therefore at risk of eviction.
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The fund for this provision is £40,000 which will come out of wider policy’s budget of £1.2million.
The taxpayer will not be footing the bill as any loan to improve a property must be repaid in full to the council before the landlord receives any future rent.
This is not a subsidy for ‘slum’ landlords. The policy clearly states that an applicant for funding must not have been the subject of any Housing Act enforcement action or convictions.
The private rented sector provides a valuable and much-needed service in Peterborough and we want to make sure that landlords in real and genuine need have an opportunity to continue to provide a home to residents rather than evicting their tenants.
If the council does provide support then we will take on the management of the property for at least five years and ensure the tenant can remain in their home. Or move in homeless families if the current tenant leaves at any point.
The landlord will receive a guaranteed rent (set at the local housing allowance rate), but, importantly and as with empty homes, only after the council has been repaid the loan amount in full from rental payments made. A management fee is also paid to the council and a legal charge is attached to the property to ensure we recover the loan if it’s sold.
By far the largest proportion (around 84 per cent) of the £1.2million budget is directed towards supporting vulnerable, mainly elderly, householders – people who otherwise would have to leave their homes and lose their independence. Since last April 75 owner-occupied households have directly benefitted from a means-tested grant to provide support such as treating damp, installing central heating or adapting a home for an elderly resident.
I very much hope that this reassures readers that the council is continuing to use all means at its disposal to support households in greatest need, and that we have no intention of allowing disreputable or criminal landlords to benefit from the public purse.
To that end, since April the council has used all of its powers under existing legislation to improve the conditions for many tenants. Sixty-seven enforcement notices have been issued and only last week a landlord was fined almost £2,000 for renting out a dangerous property following city council enforcement action.
Councillor Irene Walsh
Cabinet member Communities & Environment Capital