Good affordable housing promised as council halves government's rent formula
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Development, Housing
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Southwark Council has committed itself to providing its residents with good affordable homes as part of a 30-year housing plan.
With almost half of the borough's households earning less than £15,000 and over 36,000 families living in council homes, the council says that every effort must be made to help those who struggle to keep a roof over their head.
The local authority has approved new measures that will help to keep council rents below £100 per week on average. It claims that a fine balance must be sought in ensuring that rent is kept low but that enough income is generated into the housing revenue account (HRA) to safeguard the cost of frontline council services.
The council’s cabinet considered a range of rent options and the budget implications arising from a rent increase lower than the government's rent formula of 5.4% and resolved to halve the increase to 2.7%.
The decision also includes a commitment not to increase tenants’ service charges, garage charges, heating or hot water costs or any charges to those living in sheltered housing.
Councillor Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for housing, said: “At a visit to a food bank last week, I was shocked and dismayed that in 2014, people have to resort to queuing at food banks to feed their families.
"These are desperate times for many people and we will do everything we can to help. By being prudent with the financial management of our housing revenue account and halving the rent increase, we aim to keep rent below £100 per week. We’re already ranked eleventh cheapest rent in London of 33 boroughs and I intend that Southwark continues to be one of the least expensive places to rent in London.”
The borough is also investing £326 million to make every council home warm, dry and safe and adopting a Southwark Standard for homes in the private sector,
It has already committed to building 11,000 new council homes, at target rent, over the next 30 years.
At cabinet meeting this week, the principles of its 30-year housing strategy were laid down:
• Using every tool at the council’s disposal to increase the supply of all kinds of homes across Southwark.
• Demanding the highest standards of quality, making Southwark a place where private, housing association and council homes are indistinguishable from one another.
• Supporting and encouraging all residents to take pride and responsibility in their homes and local area.
• Helping vulnerable individuals and their families to meet their housing needs and live as independently as possible.
Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Everyone is really feeling the pinch with economic stress coming from astronomical increases in rent and house prices in the capital, unemployment and rising costs of living. I believe that providing affordable places for people to live, both to rent and to buy, is essential if we are to keep London’s economy and communities thriving.
"The main thrust of our housing strategy addresses this need for affordable homes, without compromising on quality, to create places everyone can afford to live in the borough – particularly our young people putting down roots, and older people who want to stay near their friends and families."