Wales has been operating a pilot scheme of empty property grants for home buyers. The scheme promises to help tackle some of the problems associate with poor housing stock and antisocial behaviour.
Under the Empty Property Grants scheme, home buyers can receive a grant of up to £20,000 to make the home ‘safe, secure and free from category 1 hazards’, plus a further £5,000 top up grant for renewable energy measures towards transforming empty properties into liveable homes. A mandatory contribution of 15% of eligible works up to £20,000 is payable by the homeowner, which is capped at £3,000, but this can be waived for ‘hardship’.
The grant is available so that long-term empty properties can be brought back into use.
Applicants must be owners, or prospective owners, intending to use the property as their main residence for a minimum five years following certification of the grant work. Other criteria exist to ensure the scheme targets the right properties and home owners.
The scheme is being rolled out by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, which received 173 applications between its launch in September 2019 and March 2020. In total, £2.4 million has so far been paid out by the Welsh government, and the second phase of the scheme will conclude in March 2021.
What constitutes a ‘category 1 hazard’?
Under the government’s Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) there are 29 Category 1 hazards. These are the hazards where the most serious harm outcome is identified, for example, death, permanent paralysis, permanent loss of consciousness, loss of a limb or serious fractures.
A local council must monitor housing conditions within its area, including private rented properties, council and housing association homes and owner occupied housing. However, in practice, it’s usually private rented properties that are inspected under HHSRS.
The 29 hazards are arranged in four main groups that reflect basic health requirements, as detailed below with their associated health problems.
A) Physiological Requirements
|1||Damp and mould growth
Health threats due to dust mites, mould or fungal including mental and social wellbeing health threats associated with damp, humid and mouldy conditions.
|Allergies, asthma, effects of toxins from mould and fungal infections|
Threats to health from cold indoor temperatures. A healthy indoor temperature is 18oC-21oC.
|Respiratory conditions: flu, pneumonia and bronchitis Cardiovascular conditions: heart attacks and strokes|
Threats due to high indoor temperatures.
|Dehydration, trauma, stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory|
|4||Asbestos and MMF
Exposure to asbestos fibres and Manufactured Mineral Fibres (MMF).
|Asbestos: Damage to lungs; MMF: Damage to skin, eyes and lungs|
Threats to health from chemicals used to treat timber and mould growth.
|Risk from breathing in, skin contact and swallowing of the chemical|
|6||Carbon Monoxide and fuel combustion products
Excess levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and smoke.
|Dizziness, nausea, headaches, disorientation, unconsciousness and breathing problems|
Threats to health from lead ingestion from paint, water pipes, soil and fumes from leaded petrol.
|Lead poisoning causing nervous disorders, mental health and blood production issues|
Health threats from radon gas and its daughters, primarily airborne but also radon dissolved in water.
|Lung cancer caused by exposure, which increases amount and length of exposure|
|9||Uncombusted fuel gas
Threat from fuel gas escaping into the atmosphere within a property.
|10||Volatile organic compounds
Threat to health from a diverse group of organic chemicals including formaldehyde that are gaseous at room temperature and can be found in a wide variety of materials in the home.
|Allergies, irritation to the eyes, nose and skin, headaches, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness|
B) Psychological Requirements
|11||Crowding and space
Hazards associated with lack of space for living, sleeping and normal household or family life.
|Psychological distress and mental disorders, increased risk of hygiene issues, accidents and personal space and privacy compromised|
|12||Entry by intruders
Problems keeping a property secure against unauthorised entry and maintaining defensible space.
|Fear of burglary occurring, stress and anguish caused by burglary and injuries caused by the intruder|
Threats to physical and mental health associated with inadequate natural or artificial light, including the psychological effects associated with the view from the property through glazing.
|Depression and psychological effects due to lack of natural light. Eye strain from glare and inadequate light|
Threats to physical and mental health due to exposure to noise within the property or within its curtilage.
|Psychological and physiological changes resulting from lack of sleep, poor concentration, headaches and anxiety|
C) Protection against Infection
|15||Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
Health hazards due to poor design, layout and construction making it hard to keep clean and hygienic, attracting pests and inadequate and unhygienic provision for storing household waste.
|Stomach and intestinal disease, infection, asthma, allergies, disease from rats and physical hazards|
Threats of infection from poor provision and facilities to store, prepare and cook food.
|Stomach and intestinal disease, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach upset and dehydration|
|17||Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
Threats of infections and threat to mental health associated with personal hygiene, including personal and clothes washing facilities, sanitation and drainage.
|Stomach and intestinal disease, skin infections and depression|
Threats to health from contamination by bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemical pollutants due to the quality of water supply for drinking household use such as cooking, washing and sanitation.
|Dehydration, fatigue, headaches, dry skin, bladder infections and legionnaires disease|
D) Protection against Accidents
|19||Falls associated with baths
Falls associated with a bath, shower or similar facility.
|Physical injuries: cuts, lacerations, swellings and bruising|
|20||Falls on the level surfaces
Falls on any level surface such as floor, yards and paths, including falls associated with trip steps, thresholds or ramps where the change in level is less than 300mm.
|Physical injuries: bruising, fractures, head, brain and spinal injuries|
|21||Falls associated with stairs and steps
Falls associated with stairs and ramps where the change in level is greater than 300mm. It includes internal stairs or ramps within a property, external steps or ramps associated with the property, access to the property and to shared facilities or means of escape from fire and falls over stairs, ramp or step guarding.
|Physical injuries: bruising, fractures, head, brain and spinal injuries|
|22||Falls between levels
Falls from one level to another, inside or outside a dwelling where the difference is more than 300mm. Including falls from balconies, landings or out of windows.
Hazards from electric shock and electricity burns.
|Electric shock and burns|
Threats to health from exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke. It includes injuries from clothing catching fire, a common injuring when trying to put a fire out.
|Burns, being overcome by smoke or death|
|25||Flames, hot surfaces and materials
Burns or injuries caused by contact with a hot flame or fire, hot objects and non-water based liquids. Scalds caused by contact with hot liquids and vapours.
|Burns, scalds, permanent scarring and death|
|26||Collision and entrapment
Risks of physical injuries from trapping body parts in architectural features such as trapping fingers in doors and windows and colliding with objects such as windows, doors and low ceilings.
|Physical injuries such as cuts and bruising to the body|
Threats from the blast of an explosion, from debris generated by the blast and from partial or total collapse of a building as a result of the explosion.
|Physical injuries, crushing, bruising, puncture, fractures, head, brain and spinal injuries|
Threats of physical strain associated with functional space and other features at the dwelling.
|Strain and sprain injuries|
|29||Structural collapse and falling elements
The threat of the dwelling collapsing or part of the fabric being displaced or falling due to inadequate fixing or disrepair or as a result of adverse weather conditions.