Five thousand South Ribble homes have 'serious safety defects'
More than one in ten homes in South Ribble contain at least one serious safety defect - which would cost a total of nearly £10m to put right.
A survey of the borough’s housing stock estimated that 5,088 dwellings in the district bear a so-called “category 1” hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
The figures originate from research undertaken in 2019, but came to light as South Ribble Borough Council moved to extend the level of financial assistance it provides to householders whose properties are affected by the most serious safety issues.
The HHSRS provides a framework for assessing potential hazards across 29 different areas of risk - which are then placed into either category 1 or the less serious category 2 depending on “the likelihood of an occurrence and the range of probable harm outcomes”.
Potential hazards include those which could cause falls or fire, as well as threats from carbon monoxide and asbestos. Issues affecting general living conditions are also a consideration, including excess cold or heat, damp and mould, inadequate lighting and overcrowding.
The 2019 survey sampled a selection of questionnaires sent to around 10 percent of the just over 49,000 domestic properties in the borough - 77 percent of which are owner-occupied, with the remainder almost equally split between the private and socially-rented sectors.
The council’s cabinet recently approved the extension of a local housing assistance scheme designed to help residents rectify serious safety defects in their homes. It had been identified that elderly residents whose properties contain a category 1 hazard were missing out on support if they were not in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
The level of assistance on offer to all householders has also been expanded, but will target the “most vulnerable'' and be subject to eligibility criteria and an affordability assessment.
It is estimated that the bill to repair all category 1 hazards in the borough is in the region of £9.5m. The authority will seek funding from external sources, the availability of which will ultimately determine the financial help it can offer.
Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Mick Titherington told a cabinet meeting that widening the scope of the scheme would “bring premises up to a habitable standard which, in turn, will contribute to residents’ wellbeing”.
“I’m sure all members are anxious to ensure that where such assistance is needed, it is provided," he added.
Category 1 hazards were found in homes across all areas of the district, with the highest concentrations found in the private sector in the wards of Samlesbury and Walton, Farington East and Bamber Bridge East.
The largest proportion of households in fuel poverty were also in the private sector in Samlesbury and Walton, Broadfield and St. Ambrose, while Samlesbury and Walton again featured as one of the three wards assessed as having the highest levels of “excess cold”, along with Hoole, and Longton and Hutton West.
Council leader Paul Foster said that the results of the survey were “concerning”.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to take enforcement action when they learn of category 1 hazards - irrespective of whether the property is privately owned or rented or classed as social housing. This can include notices ordering remedial work to be undertaken or particular activities to be ceased.
South Ribble Borough Council says that it places responsibilities on housing associations in the borough to ensure that their properties meet national standards.
The authority’s housing assistance policy also aims to improve energy efficiency in the district - by facilitating access to government schemes and working with energy suppliers to ensure that they fulfil their duties to provide support to those living in the least energy efficient properties.
However, the cabinet meeting heard that it was difficult for South Ribble residents to access the government’s Green Homes Voucher Scheme - because of the requirement for tradespeople carrying out work under that umbrella to be registered with a trust mark. It is thought that there are only two such firms operating in the borough.
Jennifer Mullin, the council’s director of neighbourhoods, said tradespeople had told the authority that it was “very difficult to get the trust mark and that they have got enough work [without it]”.
WHAT HELP CAN YOU GET?
South Ribble’s revised housing assistance policy is designed to reduce the number of properties with Category 1 hazards by:
***Providing assistance to all homeowners with solid walls and an EPC rating of E or less to insulate the home on a 50/50 basis with a land charge for five years.
***Providing assistance for cavity wall and loft insulation for those who do not meet energy company obligation criteria or for homeowners where they are required to make a contribution towards the cost of the works.
***Providing assistance where a heating system has failed, offering 100 percent assistance to all homeowners subject to a land charge for a period of five years, or assistance of 50 percent where homeowners are able to meet some of the cost with a land charge of five years.
*** Where category 1 hazards are identified, providing householders with 100 percent assistance subject to a land charge for a period of five years, or assistance of 50 percent where homeowners are able to meet some of the cost with a land charge of five years.
Source: South Ribble Borough Council