Below-inflation rent rise proposed

Increased Council home rents below inflation enable continued improvements.

A proposal to increase the level of rents paid for North Kesteven’s council homes at a rate significantly below inflation will enable the District Council to maintain its improvements programme.

The recommendation of the authority’s Executive Board to increase rents by 7% is the outcome of significant deliberation, balancing the current financial circumstances and the need to keep delivering on the priorities agreed by tenants. This is the maximum allowed by Government, but lower than the 11.1% they could have risen by under the established inflation-based formula normally applied

In recognition of the difficulties facing many with current cost of living challenges, the Tenants Hardship Fund is being more-than doubled to £60,000 and its eligibility criteria reviewed; which is part of a broad package of practical and financial assistance in place.

Council Leader Cllr Richard Wright said: “The Council is acutely aware and mindful that the last three years have been particularly difficult and continue to be so for many of our tenants. We absolutely understand that, but equally feel we have a duty and a responsibility – possibly greater now than ever – in ensuring we can maintain the quality and availability of our homes for those in greatest need.

“Other options for rent setting have been considered but given the priorities agreed by tenants, the need for more energy-efficiency, a drive to achieve carbon-neutrality and the general increase in costs for materials, contracts and components, all options other than the maximum permitted within the regulation would in fact have meant a reduction in the availability of funding and budget shortfalls which would, in turn, force further difficult decisions on service delivery down the line.”

“This has not been an easy decision to take given the economic climate. We have looked at all the issues in great detail, listened to our tenants, looked at the support offered through Universal Credit and Housing Benefit and considered wider levels of support. Balanced against this is the escalation in costs which are impacting the service and making everything we do, more expensive.”

Before the Government set the maximum allowable increase at 7% in November, the Council had consulted on a rate of 6% which was supported by the tenant liaison panel. While most social housing tenants have their rent paid in full or in part through benefits, the average weekly difference between a 6% and 7% increase is 87 pence.

North Kesteven’s council home rents are the second lowest in Lincolnshire. At 7%, the average weekly social rent will rise from £87.15 to £93.25, with precise figures varying dependent on property size, which maintains exceptional value for money compared to other local councils and housing providers.

By aligning with the capped rate rather than a lower 6%, the 7% rise amounts to an addition annual income of £164,700 which over the 30-year span of the Housing Revenue Account’s business plan builds to nearly £7m for the continued investment in the almost 3,900 quality homes we provide for our tenants, making them more comfortable and affordable to live in. This includes £20 million on retro-fitting a first batch of 600 homes to dramatically increase their energy efficiency, saving tenants’ money and cutting our carbon impact. Having sound finances and adequate funds is vital for such projects.

“This is an investment in the future; a small rise now that will help us bring people’s energy bills down in the future is money well spent,” said Cllr Wright.

Life has become more expensive for everybody as mortgage payments and other types of rent, energy costs, food and utilities all escalate. As we all face the consequences of this, the Council and its partners are pulling together a range of measures to help which can be found at www.n-kesteven.gov.u/costofliving

For tenants struggling financially there is a range of practical and financial assistance initiatives in place, such as money and energy advice, hardship and discretionary funds and options around transfer and tenancy sustainment.

Council homes