CYCLONE DAMAGE: One of the houses that sustained significant damage from Cyclone Debbie.
CYCLONE DAMAGE: One of the houses that sustained significant damage from Cyclone Debbie. Contributed

Residents urged to take advantage of home improvement grants

LOW income home owners are being urged to take advantage of the Household Resilience Program launched in July, in the lead up to cyclone season.

The program provides improvements for houses built pre-1984 including roof replacement, window protection, including cyclone shutters or screens and garage door and frame replacement.

Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Rebecca Woods personally assisted 40 residents with insurance claims following cyclone damage, but said she had seen hundreds suffer the same issues.

"One of the major contention issues was that we were dealing with homes dated pre-1984 that should have had a roof re-done or were, maybe, asbestos laden,” Mrs Woods said.

"There were a lot that weren't inspected properly or not inspected at all. In worst cases, I've seen homes completely written off.”

As added incentive, approved upgrades could result in reduced strain from soaring insurance costs.

Insurance provider Suncorp reported this week that 94.4% of the 9771 North Queensland insurance claims lodged post Cyclone Debbie have been resolved. However, this means more than 500 residents are still struggling 18 months on.

As a result, Suncorp confirmed it would offer North Queensland customers insurance premium reductions of up to 20% for making their homes more cyclone resilient.

Mrs Woods said the grants would have an enormous impact on damage sustained as well as the resultant recovery efforts in the wake of future natural disasters.

"This particular grant will change the way we're going to experience the next cyclone,” she said. "I believe that a grant like this would have made Debbie's impact very different for many people.”

The grants will provide up to 75% of improvement costs with the remaining 25% to be covered by the home owner.

Visit the Queensland Government website to view the full list of approved upgrades, eligibility criteria or to apply for a grant.