COUNCILLORS have given their backing to a new housing policy which aims to support disabled people to live as independently as possible.
Hartlepool Borough Council currently administers disabled facilities grants (DFG) to all owner occupier, social and private housing tenants for adaptations to their homes provided they are able to satisfy set criteria.
The maximum grant set by the Government is 30,000 per application. But Hartlepool does not currently have a policy or strategy in place for when work will be carried out, which has led to a 12 month waiting list and an over-stretched budget.
Members of the council's cabinet committee met to approve the new housing adaptations policy which includes the creation of an operations panel to oversee referrals, funding issues or complex cases
Hartlepool has an ageing population and updating existing housing stock is seen as crucial.
The three year policy brings together the council and registered provider partners in a bid to enable people to live independently in their own homes, to encourage access for disabled people to adaptations services and to provide a service that is cost effective and value for money.
It also aims to reduce the number of disabled people living in inappropriate accommodation and to increase the supply of suitable and affordable housing.
A report to councillors outlined that by 2029 the proportion of residents aged between 60 and 74 will increase by 29 per cent, with the number over 75 increasing by 50 per cent compared to 2007.
Similar rises are predicted for the numbers of older people with disabilities.
The report said: "A clear policy and criteria needs to establish when adaptations would be carried out and when they would not."
Mayor Stuart Drummond said: "One of the big things is to make sure that people have houses that are fit for purpose.
"The council has always classed this area as a high priority as we know the importance of this."
Labour councillor Ged Hall, portfolio holder with responsibility for adult and public health services, said: "There will be a lot of demand in the future for adaptations to properties and an extra 180,000 was included in last year's budget.
"It is about keeping pace with demand, which will increase."
The report added that if a policy was not adopted then the local authority would run the risk of increasing the 12 month backlog and that the tenants health needs would increase while waiting more than a year for an adaptation to their property and it could end up costing more in the future.