Sunday, May 19, 2024

Environment Canterbury to refund Healthier Homes interest payments

Environment Canterbury has announced it will refund all interest payments made by current and former borrowers in its failed Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme.

The Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme was set up in August 2018 to help eligible Canterbury ratepayers add the cost of home heating, insulation and/or ventilation products and installation to their rates bills to help families stay warm in winter.

In December 2021 the scheme was paused to new applications following identification of potential non-compliance with some sections of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003, Environment Canterbury Regional Council said in a statement today.

“Following an independent review, and discussion with the Commerce Commission, we have decided that the most appropriate action is to refund all interest paid by borrowers in the scheme from the date they joined until 30 June 2023. We are now closing the Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme to new applications,” the Council said.

From 1 July 2023 onward, Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme borrowers will continue to make loan repayments for the principal portion of the loan only, but without any additional interest charges.

“While the scheme was well-intentioned, as a regional council we were unable to provide the financial rigour that is needed to accommodate individual situations or changes of circumstance,” says Director of Corporate Services, Giles Southwell.

“We are now at the point where we can start processing interest refunds for borrowers in the Healthier Homes Canterbury loan scheme,” says Giles. “We will be making every effort to get in touch with them over the coming weeks and advising them what’s happened and how to seek a refund.

“There are about 300 borrowers who paid their loans back early, usually when they sold their property, and we anticipate it may take us a bit longer to locate, verify and process these repayments,” says Mr Southwell. 

He said total refunds will cost about $700,000, with borrowers receiving average refunds of about $465 per household. This money will come from Council’s cash reserves, which are repaid through general rates. All borrowers will have exited the scheme by 2031, the Council said.

All current and former borrowers in the scheme should hear from the Council by email, letter or phone before 31 July 2023.

“Once we have received and verified details of a New Zealand bank account and other required supporting information, refunds will be processed within 90 days.”

For details of the scheme changes and the process for seeking the refund go to ecan.govt.nz/healthierhomes.

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