Council tenants paying the price

COUNCIL house rents are set to rise by an average of six per cent - more than double the rate of inflation.

Sunday, 27th January 2013, 8:07 am

Rotherham Council’s cabinet agreed to an average rent increase of 6.19 per cent - or £4.30 per week - over a 49 week period, which it says is still among the lowest in the country.

Coun Rose McNeely said she was aware people living in council properties are facing a ‘very challenging time’.

“We have done what we can, but our historically-low rents have resulted in us having to increase them year-on-year to meet the Government’s rent convergence target in 2015/16,” she said.

Cabinet heard if the council failed to follow Government converge requirements, it could have ‘significant financial implications’.

Coun McNeely said the authority was also committed to improving housing stock to provide good quality housing for its tenants - and they should be happy to pay for that.

“In recent years we have seen a massive investment of £300million and we will continue this, while at the same time providing good quality accommodation for a fair rent,” she added.

“We have a real need to invest in our stock to make sure it is of the standard that our tenants quite rightly expect. This year we will be investing an additional £8.4million in our capital programme to meet the need for additional housing maintenance. It is only right that as people are asked to pay more for their homes, they see a return for that additional rent in better housing maintenance.”

But there are real concerns in the community that this rise will have a big impact on families who are already struggling to make ends meet. Romney Bell, secretary of the Laughton Common Tennants and Residents Association, said rent rises will heap further pressure on people - and predicts the situation will get worse.

“I think at the moment any rises in council, housing association or private rents are putting pressure on people who are already struggling to keep a roof over their heads and we will just see the situation get worse by people going more and more into debt,” she said.

“I am concerned about the bedroom tax that is coming into force and I feel it needs looking into and clarifying more with both council and tenants.”

Steve Ruffle, development manager at the Rotherham Federation of Tenants and Residents, said he understood the reason for the rise, but warned it could cause difficulties for some families. We do understand the reason for this increase is connected to the Government’s demand that council house tenant rents converge with those paid by housing association tenants.”

“Though there is some relief that the rent rise is not as high as during the previous two years. This combined with other increases in tenants daily food, transport and energy bills, may create difficulties for some council tenants.”