Havering tenants face rent increase from April

Rents for council housing, sheltered housing and hostels in Havering are likely to rise by an average of £104.88 in April, subject to approval by full council next month.

The housing budget agreed by council leader Damian White’s cabinet last night (16th February) will see rents rise by 4.1% if voted through on March 2.

Labour group leader Keith Darvill has warned the 45 per cent of council tenants who are working and do not receive benefits will be “hit hardest” by the rise.

Residents on full housing benefit or universal credit will see their allowances rise to match the increase so will be “protected,” according to the approved Housing Revenue Account report.

Cabinet member for Housing, Joshua Chapman, said the council will absorb half the cost of the estimated 20 per cent rise in bills such as electricity, gas and water.

He added: “We are acutely aware of the pressures residents are under due to increased fuel costs. Costs for gas and water have increased by 20 per cent, we have decided however to pass on half the costs to reflect the increase in living costs.”

The report adds: “This still represents a significant saving for our residents given that energy prices are expected to increase by 40-50 per cent by the spring of 2022.”

The rent rise is linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a statistic linked to the cost of housing, food, transport and furniture, which rose by 3.1 per cent up to September 2021.

Between 2015 and 2019 the government forced councils to reduce rents by one percent a year, Havering estimates that this slashed  £8million from its budget “that can never be recovered”.

According to a council analysis of how the rent rises will impact residents, 68 per cent of council tenants receive welfare benefits – this rises to 75 per cent for tenants over 65 years old.

The report adds: “The increase in rent and service charges may have a disproportionate effect on those with a lower income, as they may have a lower level of disposable income available to cover this increase.”

The council ward expected to be worst affected is Gooshays, which is in the 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

Damian White and chief executive Andrew Blake-Herbert at cabinet on February 16

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter