Floods take toll on decent homes cash
Social landlords should ensure their homes are properly insured against flood damage to avoid dipping into their decent homes cash.
That is the advice from the Audit Commission following its review of the summer floods that ravaged England this year. The report, Staying afloat, found that of the 1,986 houses flooded in Hull, 813 were formerly categorised as decent and will now have to be repaired through the council's decent homes programme because they were not insured. The commission's senior research manager, Gill Green, said that many local authorities underestimated their risk and self-insured their council housing rather than considering appropriate cover.
'A number of [councils and housing associations] need to review their current insurance and maybe decide to take out private insurance or increase selfinsurance funds or change the basis of their insurance,' she said.
The report also found that the flooding, which damaged 2,900 local authority houses at a cost of £32 million, disproportionately affected poorer households which were 'far less likely to have contents insurance', it said.
'This is a reminder to landlords of how important it is to try to get tenants to pay for insurance with their rent,' said Ms Green.
Sovereign, Severn Vale and Cottsway housing associations were among the most severely affected housing associations - although they were all insured, said the Audit Commission.
Sovereign in West Berkshire incurred £7.2 million of damage to 230 properties caused by four inches of rain in one day. Around 33 households that decamped to caravans and other temporary accommodation will start to move back after Christmas, a spokesperson confirmed.
Severn Vale in Tewkesbury, whose chief executive's home was also flooded, suffered £3.7 million in damage with 95 of its 3,000 properties evacuated.
'It's been an absolutely dreadful experience for all of us, lots of our staff have also had their homes flooded,' said a Severn Vale spokesperson. 'We won't be back to normal until spring 2008.'
Cottsway in West Oxfordshire suffered £1 million of storm damage to 46 properties with 32 residents having to move out.
The commission's research came as Sir Michael Pitt's review, Learning lessons from the 2007 floods, made 15 recommendations and came to 72 interim conclusions.
The review said that local authorities and housing associations should take a 'more active role in increasing the uptake of flood resistance and resilience measures'.
Social landlords should ensure repairs were carried out with flood-proof materials, it added.
The review found that in local authorities such as Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham, both social housing rents and council taxes were waived for those affected by the floods.
A Public Accounts Committee report, also released this week, said that the Environment Agency's 'poor track record' made it doubtful that government money intended for managing flood risk would be spent to best effect. Despite an increase in funding, 'the state of flood defences in England has not improved markedly', it added.