Rent rises ‘justified’ says tenants’ leader

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Latest News from the Diss Express,, @diss_express on Twitter

The head of a group representing council house tenants in Mid Suffolk has said a rise in rents of up to five per cent from April would be acceptable.

Keith Wykes criticised Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) earlier this month for not consulting closely enough on proposals to increase rents on its 3,400 council houses by as much as 5.5 per cent on average.

Mr Wykes, chairman of the Mid Suffolk Tenants Association, attended a consultation meeting with MSDC in Needham Market last week, open to all residents, during which he was convinced the case for a rent increase about 4.75 per cent could be justified.

MSDC say the extra money gathered from rents will be ploughed back into building more council houses.

Mr Wykes told the Diss Express: “It was a very good meeting and very informative.

“We were told what would be done with any extra money raised. That part was always a little bit vague.

“It is not just about us tenants today, it is about future tenants.”

Mr Wykes, who lives in a council house in Fressingfield, admitted that some tenants may be upset by what could be seen as a high increase.

He added; “Any increase in costs is going to make a difference (to people).

“It is a difficult balance, but I have studied this at some length.”

No decision has yet been made, but MSDC’s executive committee of councillors will make their choice on Monday.

They will be presented with four rent increase options.

Councils now have complete control of their housing budgets and incomes, called the housing revenue account, part of a central government policy.

MSDC, like many other authorities, had to borrow, in its case, an additional £57m in April 2012, to take on its share of the national housing debt, forced by the Government.

A 30-year business case for supporting the new borrowing was developed.

The ability to repay debt was based on the rental income from homes.

The Government changed its guidance on the formula for working out rents, meaning MSDC is suggesting it needs to re-assess its rent charges to meet demands for servicing that debt, and investing in housing.