By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Council tenants across Newark could see their rents rise by more than £150 a year as part of plans for the authority to generate more money for building new homes.
Deputy council leader, Cllr Keith Girling (Cons) says the proposed rise will amount to £3.18 per week on average for tenants.
He said he appreciated the increase comes at a time when heating bills are rising fast, but added there are plans in place to help tenants.
Social housing rents had reduced by one per cent each year from 2016/17 as part of government welfare reform plans, the council said.
This lost the authority more than £11m of rental income, money it says could have built more than 100 homes.
The 2019/20 financial year was the last year of the one per cent rent reduction.
In a report on the planned rise, the council said: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic there have been supply problems for a wide range of products in the building and maintenance trade which has already led to significant increases in costs this year.
“This is currently masked in the Housing Revenue Account as only essential repairs were carried out during the first lockdown period due to Covid-19.
“Now teams have caught up with the backlog and we enter the busiest half of the year this impact will become more visible as we reinstate our full services again. Officers are also predicting that these increases in costs will not reduce post Covid-19.
“Now that Brexit has been implemented, there will be an even greater impact on the supply chain for building supplies and other materials. The Housing Revenue Account will need to position itself to be able to absorb cost increases as necessary.”
Newark and Sherwood District Council owns 5,576 homes, of which 2,576 are designated for older people.
The council is proposing to increase the rent by 4.1 per cent for 2022/23, which will come into force from April 2022.
The council said: “This would represent an average weekly social rent increase of £3.18 per week based on 52 week social rent in 2021/22 of £77.60 (average of all our housing stock rents).
“This is equivalent to £165.36 per year or £13.78 per month and will provide over £900,000 of additional income for the Housing Revenue Account.”
A snapshot of data taken in December 2021 shows that of the 5,448 current tenants, 3,474 received help from benefits towards paying their rent.
Also, 2,179 were in receipt of Housing Benefit and 1,295 were in receipt of Universal Credit. The remaining 1,974 of tenants paid their rent without receiving help from benefits.
In addition to rent, local authorities can charge for other services they provide. The main one is a community alarm service.
Tenants with lifeline units in their properties can raise an alarm call from anywhere in the home if they require this.
Tenants in properties with lifeline units currently pay £1.78 per week and the council also plans to increase that charge to £1.85 per week.
Cllr Girling told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “If we go for that rise increase, what will be thrown at us is ‘you are affecting the most vulnerable’ but two thirds are on benefits or universial credit so they will be taken care of.
“If we don’t rise it, we will not be able to build the council homes we want. We have a council waiting list. We do appreciate heating bills are going up but when council tenants get their new boilers it should bring the costs down.”
The council says it remains committed to providing ‘new, high quality social housing’ within the district as well as making improvements to homes.
The council has built 300 new homes within the last four years, and says it will continue to pursue opportunities for existing sites such as Yorke Drive in Newark, which will provide more than 100 new social homes.
The proposals are set to be discussed by councillors at a Home and Communities Committee on Monday, January 24.