Rents will go up by an average of £3.46 for tenants of Wealden District Council next year, with average rents increasing from £90.09 to £93.55 per week.
The Wealden Residents’ Action Group (WRAG) are angry the Council has ignored Government guidelines on rent increases and are disappointed about how the consultation process has been handled.
Department for Communities and Local Government have recommended social rents increase by Consumer Prices Index plus 1%, an increases of 2.2% in 2014/15.
WRAG have said Wealden District Council (WDC) have decided to comply with Government guidelines by freezing council tax, yet are ignoring the Government by imposing a rent increase that will have seen social rents increased by a massive 32% in real terms over the last 5 years. WRAG have said this is causing increased hardship for some of the lowest paid workers and families in the district who have in the same period seen their own income shrink in real terms.
Wealden Residents’ Action Group facilitator, George Hedges said:
We are extremely disappointed with this decision. It is by far the biggest increase when compared to neighbouring councils. What really worries us as tenant groups is the way in which the officers at the council have handled this. We do not feel that this has been a faithful example of the consultation process that we had been promised.
WDC is however giving assurances that no individual would have to bear an increase of more than £5 a week, because in these cases a local Wealden Rent Discount Scheme would apply.
The original proposal was to limit individual rent increases to £10 a week, but following representations from tenant groups, WDC’s Cabinet decided to limit rent increases to £5 a week in 2015/16. This will mean that 646 tenants will receive a discount in 2015/16.
WDC no longer gets funding from Government for providing housing and is trying to bring rents up to the social rent level of housing associations.
The money from rents is used to manage, repair and improve homes, as well as building new council housing in the district.
Cllr Graham Wells, Wealden Cabinet member for Housing said:
These rent increases are part of an ongoing period of adjustment to bring social rents in line with the Government’s designed Formula. It began in 2002, and tenants representatives have been well aware of this process. In order to bring our remaining tenants on to Government’s Formula levels in the coming year we are proposing an average increase will be 3.7 %. Last year’s rent increase was 5.19%.
The Council’s rent increase is set to support a 30 year business plan that keeps homes decent and in good repair. The Council is aware that any increase is unwelcome but it can only spend on council housing what it raises through rents. Less rental income means less spending on repairs and improvements to their homes.
Although around 57% of the total rent is paid for by Housing Benefit, the Council is aware that some tenants may struggle with the increase. That is why it is limiting the cash increase they have to pay to a maximum of £5 a week through the Wealden Rent Discount Scheme. This will apply to 640 of our 3,000 tenants. We had originally set the safety net level at £10 a week increase but we listened to concerns of the tenant groups in the consultation and have responded by lowering it to £5 a week.
We began consulting with our tenant groups last September and we are sorry they are disappointed with the outcome of the process.
Those tenants whose rents are already in line with the Government Formula will only receive an increase of 2.2%.
The move to Formula rents will mean an average weekly rent of £86.24, or £373.69 a month, for our tenants. This is still very good value when you consider that the average private sector rent in Wealden is £825 a month.