Social housing tenants in Newcastle will now have to pay an average of £3.20 extra each week following an increase in rent and service charges.
The move was signed off at last Monday’s meeting of the Council cabinet resulting in an increase of 4.1 per cent.
Councillors heard a report into the present social housing situation before agreeing the controversial rise. The increase will place more pressure on many of Tyneside’s most vulnerable people during a time of crisis including those from South Asian communities.
Renters union ACORN had earlier warned council members many social housing tenants are already struggling due to the devastating impact of lockdown and it’s knock on effects even though plan B measures have been lifted.
The decision due to come into effect in April will affect those living in more than 25,000 rented council homes in the city. Asian Standard understands however, people in receipt of benefits will have the increase either fully or partially covered.
The council remains fully committed to helping individuals struggling to make ends meet citing the rent rise was needed to fund health and safety upgrades in its housing stock. It seems foodbank usage has gone up by a staggering 250 per cent during the pandemic. Given rising energy and food costs it’s inevitable some families will find it hard to make ends meet. The vast majority of tenants will pay between £2.50 and £3.75 per week.
It’s the second year in succession the council has proposed an increase in rents for Your Homes Newcastle tenants.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson told Asian Standard: “We full appreciate that any rise in rent and service charges will not be welcome. This is not a decision we have taken lightly.
“However, following a four-year Government imposed rent decrease of 1 per cent and then a cap we must now invest in our housing stock to meet health and safety requirements and new legislative requirements on fire assessments, while also restructuring more than 2,000 homes to meet the changing needs of our current and future tenants.
“About 75 per cent of Your Homes Newcastle Tenants receive full or partial payments of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Those who receive full payments will see no impact and those on partial payments will not pay all of the rise.
“We stand ready to help any tenant in financial difficulty and urge those with concerns to contact Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) as set out in the letters and supporting information we will send them. If tenants are struggling to pay their rent, are having money problems or just need some help and advice, they can call YHN on 0191 278 8600.
“YHN can help tenants with any debts they may have and also give them advice on household budgeting. YHN provide interpretation services over the phone, in writing and in person to any tenants who require this. If tenants need information from YHN’s website in a different format or language, they can click on a button called “Listen and translate” at the top of the webpage. Face to Face translation and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is available for verbal and non-verbal translation, which includes British Sign Language (BSL), Makaton, lipspeaking and deafblind interpreting.
“The rent increase will ensure we have sufficient investment capacity to build new homes that meet tenants’ aspirations and keep properties sustainable and in good condition for future generations as we aspire to make them energy efficient and cut carbon emissions by 2030.”
Elgan John, co-chair of ACORN Newcastle, remarked: “This further increase in charges for a non-existent service during a time when poverty is worsening in the city is a slap in the face.
“As noted by the English Housing survey, social housing tenants are more likely to be “clinically vulnerable” (as they define it) than private rented tenants, meaning they are harder hit by the pandemic crisis, both because of the need to shield and because shielding is associated with increased costs of living at a time when many have faced decreases in working hours or a lower salary due to being furloughed at less than 100%.“These tenants do not deserve a further erosion in their ability to make ends meet, least of all at the hands of their local authority.”
The rise comes into effect from April.