After 78% of public submissions overwhelmingly supported the proposal, Waikato Regional Council (WRC) has given the go-ahead for a home improvement loan scheme in its Long Term Plan. The impetus for the scheme came from Thames-Coromandel WRC representative Denis Tegg.
Councillor Tegg is delighted with the support for the project from the public and from Hamilton City Council, several other councils, Waikato DHB, and Waikato Tainui, and is pleased that 13 out of 14 WRC councillors agreed the scheme should proceed.
WRC will borrow $35 million over 10 years from the Local Government Funding Agency and provide home improvement loans to homeowners at 5.5% over a 10 year loan term. Further work is required to develop policies, processes and final criteria, before the scheme is officially launched in late 2021/early 2022.
An initial programme will be funded with the drawdown of a loan of $5 million with each homeowner’s application capped at $15,000, and the scheme will be reviewed at regular intervals.
Private homeowners will be able to opt into the scheme to carry out any combination of home improvements such as installing clean heating, double glazing, insulation, solar power and battery storage systems, electric vehicle home charging systems and to upgrade septic tanks.
The Council will place a voluntary targeted rate on the homeowner’s property and the loan amount and interest will be paid back by direct debit with monthly instalments. No mortgage and associated legal fees will be required. Credit checks will be required and no previous defaults with rates payments will also also be a pre-condition before any loan is approved. Any outstanding loan must be repaid when the property is sold.
The rating impacts will be specific to those properties participating in the scheme. For all other ratepayers, there will not be any rating impact.
Cr Denis Tegg pointed out that many homes are still not warm and dry, clean heat options reduce air pollution, recent severe droughts in the eastern Coromandel showed the need for water tank storage, upgrading septic tanks improves water quality, and more efficient heating, solar power and EV charging systems help reduce climate emissions. The programme will also bring millions of dollars into communities with more work and jobs for local suppliers, so it’s a win-win for local economies as well, he said.