Highland councillors approve small rise in council housing rents

Members today approved a modest 3% rent increase for residential rents and service charges following detailed consultation with tenants.

The increase will result in a rise in the average weekly council house rent from £75.38 to £77.74 (£2.26), which means that Highland rents are still 8th lowest of the 26 councils which retain housing.

Today’s report, which went before members at a special meeting of Highland Council, highlighted that rent levels for 2020/21 will generate sufficient income to fund expenditure relating to housing management, repairs and loan charges.

Tenants were consulted on options of a 2.5%, 3% or 3.5% increase. The overall response rate was 1,406, which signalled a significant in crease in the responses to consultation in previous years.

A significant part of the increase in repairs and maintenance (£1.780m) is an additional £1m to comply with new standards for domestic fire detection arising from changes introduced by the Scottish Government as part of the national response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Direct staff cost increases and bad debt provision based on continuing trends in rent arrears are all linked to the decision to increase rents.

Housing and Property Committee chairman, Cllr Ben Thompson, said: “The Council has a legal requirement to balance its Housing Revenue Account income and expenditure at the end of the financial year.

“To that end, members have today accepted the proposal for a small increase to housing rent and service charges for the coming year 2020/21.”

He added: “The Council continues to identify annual efficiency savings aimed at reducing management and maintenance costs without compromising best value for tenants.

“This small rise in rents will help to support an improving housing service for tenants.”

Highland Council’s Tenant Participation Team has also been working with interested tenants who say they would like more say in all aspects of their tenancy.

That close relationship gives tenants the opportunity to put forward their priorities for improvements to the areas they live in and make sure investment is targeted at community priorities. This small increase in rents will further enable the Council to meet those priorities.

Some of the ground breaking work being done by the Tenant Participation Team can be seen in the work they have been doing in Badenoch and Strathspey - https://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/12307/tenant_participation_and_engagement_in_badenoch_and_strathspey_hailed_a_success

13 Feb 2020
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