TENANTS in council houses could see their rents increase again this year to help improve housing stock - after it was revealed the government are ‘encouraging’ local authorities to maximise the increase.
Last year Barnsley Council bosses, alongside Berneslai Homes, increased tenants’ rent by 6.5 per cent - slightly less than the maximum threshold increase of seven per cent.
However, a report which will be discussed by councillors next week suggests that local people could see their rent increase yet again next year.
It states that councillors will have to make some ‘difficult’ decisions to ensure the 18,000-strong housing stock meets the national requirements.
“As with last year’s budget, there will be some difficult decisions for members to make in terms of continuing to invest in our council stock and meeting all regulatory requirements whilst balancing increases in rents and service charges for tenants,” the report said.
“Last year, the council set its rent increase at 6.5 per cent, which was below the government’s rent threshold of seven per cent.
“This year, government and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) are very much encouraging local authorities to maximise on rent increases to ensure that they can continue to manage and maintain stock to retain a balanced budget.”
It’s believed that to get the council’s housing stock to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C by 2030 - both the council and government’s target - it would cost around £58m.
Coupled with the backlog of work that needs to be completed on home, rising costs are something councillors are working on.
“It should be noted that there is currently a backlog of planned works which is impacting on tenant satisfaction and resulting in an increase in complaints and disrepair cases,” the report said.
“The backlog originates from works which were reported but were unable to be completed in-year due to the large volume.
“It is a priority for Berneslai Homes and its contractor partners to complete these works as quickly and efficiently as possible, whilst ensuring that there is not an overspend situation in-year.
“The full stock condition surveys, due to be completed on 100 per cent of our properties by the end of March 2024, will provide more robust information to inform the retrofit investment programme, going forward.”
The council are also in the process of building 60 new homes - and there are an additional nine properties at the pre-planning stage for Goldthorpe.
“The 60 homes are all due to complete before March 2024 - 41 of which are for social rent,” the report added.
“During last year’s budget setting, it was not possible to commit funding to any additional council house build schemes as the HRA had to prioritise investment in existing stock to ensure decency and health and safety compliance.”