Working hard to tackle the housing crisis.
Welcome to the newest edition of our newsletter on North Devon housing news.
In this newsletter we’ll let you know about:
- NDC and Lendology recognised by national award
- Update from our Outreach team
- Supporting homeowners to keep roofs in good repair
- Homes for Ukraine update
- Pickwell’s Refugee Week
- Chivenor resettlement for Aghan citizens
- Short-term lets sector government consultations
- Energy efficiency upgrades available for low-income households without mains gas
- Calling all landlords
- Compliments for our housing team
- Empty Homes project update
NDC and Lendology recognised by national award.
Together with social enterprise lender, Lendology CIC, we have been recognised by a prestigious national award. We work in partnership with Lendology to tackle empty homes and revitalise communities, and this has been highly commended in the “Best Partnership Award” category by the Empty Homes Network Awards 2023.
For over a decade, we and Lendology have worked together to address the pressing issue of empty homes in the region. Our collaborative efforts have resulted in significant improvements in living standards, increased accessibility, and enhanced energy efficiency for homeowners.
Lead Member for Housing at North Devon Council, Councillor Graham Bell says: “We are delighted to be highly commended in the Best Partnership Award category with Lendology CIC. We launched our empty homes project last year together with around 12 other projects as part of our Housing and Community Safety Programme, which aims to increase the available housing stock in North Devon to tackle our housing crisis.
“We are passionate about bringing empty homes back into use and our partnership work with Lendology CIC is a vital tool to support homeowners to fund repairs and improvements. Although our empty homes project is still in its infancy, our renewed policy has already allowed us to lend significant funds to renovate a number of long term empty properties. We have received some great feedback from our customers about our innovative partnership with Lendology CIC and that has encouraged us to continue to develop our relationship. We look forward to supporting more owners and helping them to bring their empty homes back into use.”
For more information about the loans available, visit www.lendology.org.uk or call Lendology on 01823 461099.
Update from our Outreach team.
Our Service Lead Housing, Vulnerable Persons and Community Safety, Natasha Rowland says: “We now have a mix of bespoke/exclusive use temporary accommodation for rough sleepers with 17 spaces available at any one time.
“Unfortunately, rough sleeper numbers in and around Barnstaple remain quite high with around 17 people rough sleeping at any one time.
“Despite our best efforts not every rough sleeper will want accommodation immediately. We do not turn our backs on these clients but offer welfare support ensuring all is well and that they are safe, fit and cared for.
“Those in accommodation have different levels of need and some require a lot of support which is why we operate 24 hours a day 365 days of the year.”
Supporting homeowners to keep roofs in good repair.
We are supporting eligible homeowners to assess the current condition of their roofs and seek advice on the maintenance, repair, or replacement work required to keep homes in good condition.
Through our work with Lendology, we subsidise a home improvement loan scheme for eligible homeowners to finance a wide range of home repairs, adaptations, energy efficiency improvements or renewable energy measures.
If you are considering a more significant renovation, such as a full replacement or re-thatch, or even installing solar panels, Lendology may be able to help. For more information about the loan scheme, visit www.lendology.org.uk or call Lendology on 01823 461099.
Homes for Ukraine update.
Devon-based charity, The Pickwell Foundation works locally to provide assistance to refugees and asylum seekers, including offering support to Ukrainians and their sponsors in northern Devon through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Together with the local district councils, Pickwell is appealing to residents to help them grow their list of sponsors in the area. If you think you might be able to assist, please email@example.com or call 07951914829 where there is a dedicated advisor on hand to offer support.
Pickwell’s Refugee Week.
The Pickwell Foundation, would love to invite you to their ‘Afternoon of Compassion’ event for Refugee Week 2023.
Date/Time: Sunday 25 June 2-5pm
Location: Landmark theatre, Ilfracombe
There’ll be live music from Small Town Jones, Jules Moberly and M’Larky (The Grampus Inn house band), craft activities, informative talks, food tasting and fun for the kids.
The launch of their new short film – “When the Asylum Seekers Came to Town”.
Filmed on location in Ilfracombe by Dan Atkins Film, it tells the story of both the Pickwell Foundation volunteers and also the sanctuary seekers they met, whilst residing in the asylum hotel in Ilfracombe. It is a highly emotive piece which they hope will show the impact of how love and compassion, in abundance, has on the mental and physical wellbeing of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
The film will be shown alongside an exhibition of Toby Adamson incredible photographs, Toby is a UK-based photographer and filmmaker who has travelled the world documenting people and telling visual stories. His incredibly powerful images have been woven with words by Mark Read of the Salvation Army, who joined The Foundation throughout this period of support.
The film and exhibition are a powerful reminder of the importance of compassion and hope in a world that so needs that right now. They are a must-see for anyone who wants to be inspired by the human spirit.
Keep up to date on all of The Pickwell Foundations Refugee Week events and activities via the link – https://linktr.ee/thepickwellfoundation
Chivenor resettlement for Aghan citizens.
In June 2022, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) offered 12 units of family accommodation at RMB Chivenor. This was part of a national scheme, providing up to 550 houses across the country, to assist families who had an association with UK armed forces.
Officers reported to Full Council in July 2022 with a recommendation to lease six of these units under the then Security Force Assistance Scheme (now the ARAP).
The Home Secretary has recently announced that all bridging hotels accommodating Afghan citizens will be closed. Residents will be issued with three months’ notice to vacate. Those who are unable to secure alternative accommodation will be advised to approach a local authority as homeless.
At the council’s recent Strategy and Resources Committee, Members resolved to accommodate more people from Afghanistan under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme in North Devon, by maximising the use of all 12 of the houses at RMB Chivenor.
The local closure of two bridging hotels could impact on housing services in North Devon. Increasing the supply of temporary accommodation at RMB Chivenor reduces the risk of a lack of supply and/or increased costs associated with the council’s statutory homeless duties.
Short-term lets sector government consultations.
Consultation on a registration scheme
This Council, along with others, has been lobbying government about the condition of the local housing market including the impact from short-term holiday lets.
The number of properties operating as short-term holiday let businesses in North Devon has increased from 1796 in April 2022 to 1895 in April 2023 and so this issue is still very much alive in North Devon. These are just the lets that are identified through the business rates system and so there are likely to be many more operating through the council tax system which can not be identified.
There are concerns about inconsistencies within the regulatory framework for the guest accommodation sector: unlike with hotels and B&Bs, it is difficult to monitor compliance with key health and safety regulations by short-term lets given the lack of an authoritative data source. Concerns have also been raised in areas with a high concentration of short-term lets about the impact on the availability and affordability of local rental housing and increased house prices driven by additional demand from owners of short-term lets. There can also be negative effects on local areas of anti-social behaviour, and a broader ‘hollowing out’ of communities.
In recognition of the growing issues and stakeholder calls for further action, a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCSM) consultation has been launched looking at three high-level possible approaches to a registration scheme with detailed questions about the design.
The register of short-term lets would provide data, which would help to provide local authorities with information about which premises are being let out in their area. This would provide valuable information to help them manage the housing market impact of high numbers of short-term lets (where this is an issue), and apply and enforce the use class changes, should this measure be introduced.
Alongside the introduction of a registration scheme, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has also committed to consult on planning measures that would help local areas have greater ability to control any future increase in the number of short term lets in their area and support the retention of existing properties to buy or to rent.
This consultation seeks views on the introduction of a short-term let use class. In addition it seeks views on the introduction of new permitted development rights to provide flexibility where short term lets are not a local issue, and which allows for this flexibility to be removed where there is local concern. They are additionally seeking views on how homeowners might be provided with flexibility to let out their sole or main home for up to 30 nights in a calendar year.
The DLUHC consultation is separate but will run concurrently with the DCMS consultation.
We are supportive of both of these consultations. It is clear from our area that short-term holiday lets are beyond saturation point in particular North Devon villages. Schools have been at risk of closure and many people are unable to afford housing in those areas now. The increase in the number of short-term holiday lets has also impacted on the ability to find rental accommodation as many landlords have switched over to holiday letting, which has caused many problems for the community and local businesses whose staff are unable to find accommodation. Regulation in this area will therefore positively impact on those communities and businesses.
Energy efficiency upgrades available for low-income households without mains gas.
Lower-income householders across Devon whose homes are not on the gas grid are invited to apply for free energy efficiency improvements to their homes.
Eligible homeowners will be supported throughout the works and can help decide what improvements are made.
All those supported through the scheme will receive a whole house energy improvement plan which can be used to carry out further, self-funded measures in the future.
The Home Upgrade Grant scheme aims to deliver energy efficiency and low carbon heating improvements to low-income households living in poorly performing homes.
Devon County Council has secured £13.2 million funding to deliver this project over two years from April 2023 until March 2025.
Members of the public can check their eligibility and apply through the Energy Saving Devon website.
Registrations for this scheme are now open at www.energysavingdevon.org.uk/help/hug2/.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can register your interest by phoning Devon County Council directly on 0345 155 1015.
Calling all landlords…
Officers in our Temporary Accommodation and Housing Options teams are working hard to try and find solutions for those at risk of homelessness.
Just a reminder that we are looking for landlords who may have accommodation available for rental. If you’re a landlord or a prospective landlord, please come to us and we can work with you to find a tenant suitable for your property.
We will offer some support at the start of the tenancy for those that may require it and also in some cases financial assistance with rent in advance or deposits.
We are also calling out to landlords for suitable properties that we could use for temporary accommodation under the private rented sector lease scheme. If you’re a landlord with a two or three bedroom unit in the main town areas, please do contact us for further information (01271 388870 or online).
Recent compliments for our housing officers.
Our housing officers are extremely passionate about supporting those in housing need and work very hard to get the best results for their clients. It’s lovely when they receive positive comments, and we thought we’d share a few of them with you…
- “I just wanted to say a very big thank you for all your help, support, advice and understanding through this very difficult part of my life, I really appreciate everything you have done for me over the last few months.”
- “Thank you for your kind email. Your council has a human touch which not all councils have. THANK YOU!”
- “[Officer] deserves a pay rise, so helpful patient and kind.”
- “Thank you for arranging to have the ramp installed outside of my house, I am so pleased.”
Empty Homes Project update.
At the end of April 2023 we contacted around 450 owners of homes empty for less than two years to offer support to bring their properties back into use. Around 60 have responded with updates ranging from the property now being occupied, marketed to sell or used as a second home and I have passed those on to council tax to update their records.
I have been working collaboratively with revenues to identify those empty homes with large council tax arrears and we have agreed to consider four for a charging order in August 2023. These could lead to the enforced sale of the properties to recover the debt and bring them back into use.
We have also agreed to target those properties that have been council tax exempt because probate has not been granted on a deceased estate. There are around 300 awaiting probate and whilst most are in the process of being resolved, around 10 are longer term.
We will also begin to target those properties that may be suitable for an empty dwelling management order and will select a few to test the process and build experience.
For more information…
You can read more about the services we offer on our website:
If you’d like to contact our Housing Options team, you can do so by completing a form online:
You can also contact us by telephone on 01271 388870.