To consider recommendations from Cabinet in respect of housing rents and service charges.
Pursuant to Cabinet Minute No.91 (2020/21) consideration was given to a report that sought approval for the proposed values of the Housing Rents, Non-Dwelling Rents, District Heating and Service Charges as well as the draft Housing Revenue Account Budget for 2021/22.
It was proposed that in line with the Government policy on rents for social housing, that rents should be increased by 1.5% (CPI (as of September 2020 plus 1%) in 2021/22. It was noted that this would result in an average rent increase for social rented of £1.12 per week from £74.21 to £75.33 per week. It was noted that the increase in rent would increase rental income by approximately £1.1million that would then be used to support the ongoing maintenance and management of services for Council homes.
For non-dwelling properties, such as garages, garage plots, cooking gas supplies and communal facilities, it was proposed that ,in line with the Council’s policy on fees and charges, that a 2% increase should be implemented in order to enable cost of supplying and managing these services to be covered. It was also proposed that there should be no increase in the charges for District Heating as it had been projected that the scheme would break even in 2021/22.
The Cabinet Member for Housing noted that only around one-third of tenants would pay the full increase in rents, with the rest being supported by being in receipt of full or partial Housing Benefit.
Councillor Jepson noted his support for the proposals and the Council’s activity to provide more social rented homes to replace homes lost to Right to Buy sales.
Councillor Carter stated that the Council should not be increasing rents at a time when families across the Borough were facing tough financial times due the economic impact of the pandemic and advised that the Council should be freezing, not increasing rents at this difficult time.
Councillor Ellis stated her support for the proposals and the Council’s commitment to providing decent homes for residents and noted that the pandemic had highlighted the importance of everyone having a safe and secure home. Councillor Watson noted that the activities detailed in the HRA Business Plan that had just been approved were dependent on the proposed rent increases, and as such stated that all Members who had supported the HRA Business Plan must also support the proposed rent and service charges. Councillor Watson emphasised that most tenants would not be impacted by the increase in rents due the support they received from Housing Benefit.
Councillor Mallinder stated her support for the replacement of homes lost to Right to Buy sales as social rented properties provided safe, secure and good quality housing to many people. Councillor Cusworth noted that the pandemic had created an increase of homelessness and asked how many people on the waiting list for a Council property were homeless. Councillors Steele and Walsh stated their support for the proposed rent increases and noted that the proposed rent increases were small but necessary in order to ensure that Council homes could continue to be maintained at a decent standard.
The Cabinet Member thanked Members for their support of the proposals. In response to Councillor Cusworth, the Cabinet Member advised that there were currently over 7,000 people on the waiting list for a Council property and noted that this showed the high level of demand that existed for decent homes at reasonable rents. In response to Councillor Carter, the Cabinet Member advised that the small rent increase was required in order to maintain homes to a decent standard and also to enable the delivery of sufficient decent homes in the long term. The Cabinet Member re-emphasised that only around one third of tenants would pay the full increase in rents, with the rest being supported by being in receipt of full or partial Housing Benefit.
1) That dwelling rents be increased by 1.5% in 2021/22 in line with the Government policy on rents for social housing which allows rents to increase by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (as of September 2020), plus 1%.
2) That shared ownership rents be increased by 1.6% in 2021/22 in line with the Government policy on rents for social housing which allows rents to increase by the Retail Price Index (RPI) (as of September 2020), plus 0.5%.
3) That charges for garages and parking spaces, communal facilities, cooking gas and the use of laundry facilities for 2021/22 be increased by 2%, in line with the Council’s policy on fees and charges.
4) That the unit charge per Kwh for District Heating Schemes for 2021/22 remain unchanged at the level set by Council in December 2017.
5) That the Housing Revenue Account Budget for 2021/22 be approved.
Mover: - Councillor Beck Seconder: - Councillor Alam