Cllr Billing noted one of the conditions regarding the 25 year agreement for RSLs to repair properties and he proposed an amendment to the motion that this condition be changed to state that the funding would only be available to RSLs that carried out improvements up to the highest level of green standards, which was level 6.
This was seconded by Cllr Broadbent.
Cllr Mortimer stated that RSLs currently worked to level 4 and it was very difficult to achieve level 6. Cllr Billing stated that the resolution could include the words “where achievable”.
The Monitoring Officer was invited to comment and confirmed his understanding was consistent with what Cllr Mortimer had stated, and suggested that the resolution include a requirement to aspire to the higher green standards rather than an obligation.
Cllr Fox suggested that the council should track the standards
Cllr McDonald stated that the report suggested that to bring back a house into use could cost £100,000, but a house could be bought for this cost and he did not support this proposal therefore.
Cllr Billing agreed that his proposed amendment to the motion be worded to be an obligation upon any grant receiving body to aspire to work towards the higher levels of the green homes policy.
RESOLVED that Council:
(i) agree to the following change to the Councils Empty Homes Grant policy to ensure that:
“Empty homes grants are targeted towards RSLs to help support the purchase of long term empty dwellings on the open market. A maximum level of grant (£50,000) is payable per dwelling and that this grant should not exceed more than 50% of the total cost of the Purchase, Repair or Conversion of that dwelling. As a condition of the grant award, the RSL is required to enter into a 25 year agreement with the Council, giving the Council 100% nomination rights. Dwellings brought back into use can only be used by the RSL as temporary accommodation for homeless.”
(ii) to include a further condition in any grant award, that the RSL aspire to achieve the highest level of green design standards in any Repair or Conversion
(iii) agree that an Invest to Save bid in the sum of £750,000 be included in the Council’s Financial Strategy 2011-21, which will be presented to Full Council for approval in February 2011. This funding will provide grant payments to match fund RSL contributions, enabling the purchase of empty dwellings that can be brought back into use as temporary accommodation for the homeless. The £750,000 is to be funded from an increase to borrowing to be repaid from revenue savings achieved on the cost of temporary accommodation;
(iv) instruct officers to market the sale of the Councils
former homeless hostel at 6-8 Alma Square (Newburn House).
The Council has a legal obligation to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people. We currently discharge that obligation for single people through the use of Bed and Breakfast Accommodation.
B&B is expensive. This proposal will reduce the Council’s reliance on B&B and generate revenue savings to the Council of around £134,000 a year.
The report also recommends that the Councils former hostel for homeless people, at 6-8 Alma Square is sold. This recommendation is made following an assessment of the costs associated with bringing it back into use.