Report from the Strategic Director for Adult Care, Housing and Public Health.
That the Cabinet note the content of the report and recommends to Council:
1. That dwelling rents are increased by 7% in 2023/24 (Option 1) in line with the latest Government policy on rents for social housing which caps rent increases to 7% for 2023/24.
2. That shared ownership rents are increased by 7% in 2023/24 (Option 1) as per the increase on Council dwelling rents.
3. That there is a 6% increase in charges for garages and parking spaces, communal facilities, cooking gas and use of laundry facilities.
4. That Cabinet note the £1.65m ‘cushioning’ effect that the Council has put in place through the District Heating Scheme in 2022/2023 rising to £2.593m for 2023/2024 subject to Recommendation 6 below.
5. That the Council retain the Energy Bill Relief Scheme amounts to offset some of the deficit incurred in cushioning tenants from energy price rises.
6. The unit charge per Kwh is increased by 186.43% and weekly prepayment charges are increased by 44% to 150%, depending on property size, for District Heating Schemes in 2023/24 (Option 1) to enable the Scheme to break even in the long term.
7. Approve the draft Housing Revenue Account budget for 2023/24 as shown in Appendix 2.
8. That the Council retain the policy of realigning rents on properties at below formula rent, to the formula rent level when the property is re-let.
Consideration was given to the report submitted which was seeking approval for the proposed values of the housing rents, non-dwelling rents, District Heating and service charges and the draft Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget for 2023/24.
The report was also considered alongside the HRA Business Plan report for 2023/24.
The plan was refreshed annually so that it remained responsive to changes in the economic climate, policies, or national government changes. The key priorities that influenced the plan remained largely as they were previously. These were:
· Investing in future housing growth.
· Replacing homes lost through Right to Buy.
· Maintaining Decent Home standards and service standards.
· Ensuring compliance to statutory functions, part of which was achieving energy performance C across the housing stock.
· Sustaining the current levels of investment in front line services.
· Safeguarding and supporting the most vulnerable tenants.
A critical consideration of the plan was to set the rents at a level to enable the Council to meet those priorities.
The introduction of the social rent cap had set rents at a maximum of 7%.
The proposal within the report was that dwelling rents were increased by 7% which included shared ownership. A 6% increase to service charges, which included garages and parking.
For district heating there was a £1.65m cushioning on the proposed increase which was proposed to increase in-line with national Government’s proposed dual fuel cap.
The Leader reflected on the pressures within the housing budget. There was a reluctance to increase rents by 7%, however, the same pressures, such as fuel increases, applied. The Council had an ambitious housing programme. It was highlighted that most tenants would be protected from the increases due to other measures already in place.
This report had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board as part of the pre-decision scrutiny process. The Board had reviewed both items together and raised concerns regarding the cost-of-living crisis, in particular around the rent and service charges. Additional recommendations were proposed, which were as follows:
1. That Cabinet be advised that the recommendations be supported.
2. That consideration be given to whether additional measures, such as tenancy advice and support, could be introduced to mitigate the impact of rent increases for residents who are particularly vulnerable to changes in rent levels (for example recipients of Personal Independence Payments and Disability Living Allowance for children).
3. That consideration is given to developing a communication strategy, including drop-in sessions, to raise awareness of changes to the district heating charges and support available to households.
In terms of the HRA Business Plan it was confirm that the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board supported those recommendations.
Resolved: That the Cabinet noted the content of the report and recommended to Council:
9. That consideration be given as to whether additional measures, such as tenancy advice and support, could be introduced to mitigate the impact of rent increases for residents who are particularly vulnerable to changes in rent levels (for example recipients of Personal Independence Payments and Disability Living Allowance for children).
10.That consideration is given to developing a communication strategy, including drop-in sessions, to raise awareness of changes to the district heating charges and support available to households.