Barnet Council’s cabinet has approved plans to increase rents and charges for social rented homes, service charges and temporary accommodation amid growing financial pressures.
During the cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday 16th) a review of rents and charges was presented and a list of proposals voted on.
These included an increase in rent of 7.7% for all council-owned social-rent homes and affordable-rent homes. An average increase of £8.22 for heating and hot water changes and an increase of temporary accommodation rents, up to the limit allowed, were also agreed.
Ross Houston, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said rents and service charges were “directed by government recommendation” and added many councils were adopting what the government had set out.
From October 2023 the government announced shared ownership rents would increase using a “more modern measure of inflation” meaning they would increase once a year by the consumer price index (CPI) plus 1%.
CPI is a measure of change over time in the prices paid by consumers for goods or services. Cllr Houston said the council’s housing services were “running on the bare minimum” and added the report detailing the rent increases was a “difficult paper” to present.
Providing context behind the move he said an “additional pressure” came from inflation in building and maintenance being “higher” than general inflation.
He said whichever party came to power in Westminster in following the general election later this year, they were “going to have to tackle this” as “housing across the range is unsustainable in the long term”.
Regarding their decision to implement the increases he said without the change the council would be in “dire difficulty” in terms of resourcing housing services.
Cllr Houston also said that not implementing the increases would “limit housing revenue account reserves” to “tackle maintenance” and “build new homes”.
He mentioned the range of services in place to help mitigate financial pressures for residents. These include discretionary housing payments for residents in receipt of housing benefits or Universal Credit, council tax discretionary relief and support schemes, and the Barnet Residents Support Fund which can help cover the costs of utilities and food for the borough’s most vulnerable people.
But council leader Barry Rawlings criticised the proposed removal of the government’s Household Support Fund, which the council has been using to pay for employment and benefit support, early years services, and projects run by charity Age UK Barnet.
On the government’s decision to end Household Support Fund from March, Cllr Rawlings said: “It’s quite an evil move at a time like this when I don’t think any housing authority is going to not put the rents up.”