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Rent review will support continued investment into council housing

Published: Wednesday, 10th January 2024

An annual rent increase for more than 17,000 tenants is being considered by Stoke-on-Trent City Council - as the authority looks to invest millions of pounds improving its housing stock.

Over the next five years, the authority is committed to investing £117 million through a capital investment programme which will see more than 14,500 homes benefit from upgrades and improvements.

The programme will also support the building of new homes, the remodelling and extending of existing properties to accommodate larger families and the installation of energy efficiency measures to ensure all properties achieve a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating C by 2030.

Now Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet is set to consider proposals to increase rents by 7.7 per cent from April 2024, resulting in an average increase of £6.17 per week (based on 52 weeks), at a meeting next Tuesday (January 16).

The proposed increase follows government guidance which caps rent increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation (6.7 per cent in September 2023) plus one per cent. Separate charges will continue to apply for grounds maintenance, television aerials, communal facilities and other services, where applicable.

The income raised from the rents will be ringfenced meaning it will support the ongoing capital investment programme and will be re-invested into the authority’s housing stock, helping to improve and repair council properties for residents across the city.

In 2023, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s repairs and maintenance company, Unitas completed:

  • 75,092 responsive repairs
  • 426 new kitchens
  • 128 new bathrooms
  • 901 new doors

It also carried out £3.4 million of planned roofing and pointing works across the city council’s housing stock as well as £3.1 million central heating renewals and £10.3 million of improvement works across 11 estates in the city.

According to government data, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s average rent for ‘general needs’ housing stood at £75.02 per week in 2022/23 which is substantially lower than the West Midlands average of £84.12 and the national average of £93.10.

Councillor Chris Robinson, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning, said: “We are committed to raising living standards in the city and are confident that our tenants will reap the benefits of the millions of pounds of investment we are planning for our housing stock.

“We recognise the financial pressures our residents are under, especially during the cost of living crisis, but despite the proposed increase, which is in line with government guidance, it is important to remember that our rents remain amongst the lowest in the country in comparison to other local authorities and registered providers.

“For residents who are finding it particularly difficult to manage their finances, help is at hand. We know times are tough and we are working with partners to ensure people are receiving all of the support they’re entitled to when it comes to money and debt, energy, food and health. Our Income Advice Team is also available to assist with debt management, benefit advice and tenancy support.”

Recognising the pressures on tenants brought by rising consumer costs, the city council is proposing to maintain its Financial Independence Fund to support council tenants who may be struggling financially, bolstering existing schemes such as discretionary housing payments.

The scheme is administered by the authority’s Income Advice Team which has helped to identify more than £5 million of additional income for tenants since April 2020.

For support visit: www.stoke.gov.uk/helpisathand or contact the Income Advice Team via email at incomeadviceteam@stoke.gov.uk or on 01782 231564.