Council Proceeds with Maximum Allowed Rise in Housing Rents

Nearly 17,000 households could see up to 7.7% increase

Highcliffe Drive, SW15. Picture: Mandy Barry-Cades

January 25, 2024

Wandsworth Council’s housing committee has approved plans to increase social and affordable rent levels by a maximum of 7.7per cent on Tuesday, 23 January.

The plans would see the average weekly rent for council tenants in Wandsworth rise from £138.82 to £148.86 – an increase of £9.64, or 7.2pc. The changes would affect 16,776 tenancies in the borough. The council is set to further consider the proposals and make a final decision on 7 February.

The level of rent paid by a council tenant depends on the number of bedrooms in the property. The council has provided the planned increases in average weekly social and affordable rents according to the size of the property, which are summarised below:

Zero bedrooms: £6.26 per week, or 7.65pc
One bedroom: £8.19 per week, or 7.63pc
Two bedrooms: £10.03 per week, or 7.51pc
Three bedrooms: £11.45 per week, or 6.82pc
Four bedrooms: £9.69 per week, or 5.23pc
Five or more bedrooms: £3.26 per week, or 1.66pc

A report by council officers said the proposed rise in weekly rents would protect the long-term viability of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) business plan, which sets out the income and expenditure relating to the authority’s housing stock. It added the proposals took into accoun high levels of inflation, resulting in cost pressures on the HRA, and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on residents.

The report argued the proposals strike “an appropriate balance between affordability for tenants and the responsibility and requirement for maintaining existing stock to a decent standard and the council’s ambitious plans to increase the level of stock (through build and purchase) whilst maintaining a financially viable HRA business plan”.

Rent levels for council tenants in temporary accommodation at Nightingale Square and those living in properties with shared ownership agreements would also increase by a maximum of 7.7pc, in line with the proposals.

Conservative councillor Kim Caddy raised concerns about the planned “huge increase” in weekly rents at the meeting on 23 January. She said, “This will genuinely have a real effect on people’s budgets and we’ve already seen that arrears are increasing. It’s going to put huge financial pressure on people.”

Brian Reilly, executive director of housing and regeneration, said the council needs to increase rent levels to maintain its housing stock in the face of mounting pressures. He said, “We have no alternative. We can barely do what we need to do and if you start accepting that we don’t charge the rents that enable us to maintain our stock, we will have disrepair, our stock will fall into misuse, our estates will be worse, we won’t have the resources to do the basics.”

He added, “It is absolutely essential, following the reductions in income that all local authorities have suffered, that we go for this figure and that is the context that we mustn’t lose sight of.”

Some tenants have their rent met in full by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. Residents in receipt of these benefits can apply to the council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help pay their rent if they are struggling to meet the total cost.

The committee also approved plans to add £126.2million to the HRA up to the 2026/27 financial year, bringing the total to £714.8m. This extra cash would fund further repairs and improvements to homes and estates, along with building and buying properties.

The committee approved the proposals at the meeting, with seven councillors voting in favour and four against. The council will further consider the plans and make a final decision on 7 February. The changes will come into effect for the 2024/25 financial year on April 1 if they are formally approved.

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter