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Caerphilly Council backs changes to support for housing repairs

Caerphilly County Borough Council offices in Tredomen (Pic: LDRS)

SENIOR councillors in Caerphilly have backed reforms of private sector housing grants that will see some support removed and replaced with repayable loans.

Local authorities have powers to support private owners, landlords and tenants to repair and adapt their homes.

Wider budget pressures mean it is becoming “increasingly unsustainable” to provide current levels of assistance, warned cabinet member Shayne Cook at a meeting on April 3.

The council will withdraw some financial support for home adaptations, including the Home Repair Grants.

Several other streams of support which were previously grants will now be reformed as loan-based assistance.

The council will also bring in new support to improve energy efficiency of homes. 

This will include the Home Safety Repayable Assistance scheme, as well as a planned Energy Crisis Grant that will draw on external funding, including from the UK Government.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Cook, who is responsible for housing, said: “Having a safe, warm and secure home should be a fundamental right but we recognise the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on many of our residents and their ability to improve or maintain their home sufficiently.

“The Private Sector Housing Renewal and Disabled Adaptations Policy aims to provide financial support to those who require it.

“This includes help to improve energy efficiency, which is vital in making sure homes are warm and secure, whilst also keeping fuel costs to a minimum and reducing carbon emissions.”

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There were also concerns raised at the cabinet meeting that the council was departing from Welsh Government advice on means-testing people for Disabled Facilities Grants.

Cabinet member Elaine Forehead questioned why Caerphilly Council would continue with means tests even though then-climate change minister Julie James had urged local authorities, in 2021, to abandon the practice for “medium” adaptations to homes.

Fiona Wilkins, the council’s housing services manager, said it was “not often we would recommend moving away from guidance provided” by the government, but scrapping means-testing would have a “significant impact” on the council’s finances.

“By removing means tests there would be a significant influx” of applications, Ms Wilkins said, explaining that “the most vulnerable end up suffering the most”.

She added that “in practice” removing means tests “would be a detriment to those least able to pay” for adaptations to their homes.