Maximum rent rises on the way for Greenwich residents

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

More than 25,000 Greenwich homes will see their weekly housing bill increase by 7.7 per cent, the highest amount enforceable by a local authority.

Greenwich council has agreed to raise its social rent and service charges by the maximum amount to address ‘enormous’ housing pressures.

The change will see rent rising by an average of £7.86 per week for tenants, from an average of £109.96. The service charges increase of approximately £1.23 brings the weekly fee to £17.25 on average.

The increases will come into effect from April this year and were approved by the authority at a full council meeting on February 21.

Labour councillor Pat Slattery, cabinet member for housing, said at the meeting that the increase would affect the 20,000 council homes the authority owns and the 5,000 homes secured through leaseholds.

She said additional pressures had placed ‘enormous’ stress on setting the rate for the upcoming year and the housing market was ‘broken’.

Cllr Slattery said at the meeting: “I don’t think anyone in this chamber welcomes doing that increase to a largely unprivileged group of people in our borough, but if we don’t do it we’ll be making cuts to their services.

“We are funding nearly half a billion pounds worth of improvements to those homes. We have to pay the interest rate on that and that comes out of rents.”

She added: “I would stress that even with this increase, we are still the cheapest rents in London, we believe… and given the London housing market that is something to say.”

Council documents showed that the authority’s housing revenue account was facing a £5.1million overspend in the current financial year, with nearly one third of the figure attributed to the costs of repairing tenants’ properties.

The rise in social rent is the maximum social housing rent increase that providers can enforce, and is derived from the consumer price index from September last year with an additional one per cent added.

The cabinet member said the increase was partly due to stricter building safety requirements following the Grenfell Tower fire and the council’s new damp and mould team that was set up to tackle such issues across its housing stock. She added that £180,000 would be allocated to a Hardship Fund to support tenants who may struggle with the rent increases.

The council also agreed to raise the number of homes it owns that are used for temporary accommodation by 50 for the upcoming year, with the number rising to 197. Officers said in their report there are currently 240 homeless households placed in hotel rooms by the council due to the lack of available housing.

Conservative councillor Matt Hartley put forward an amendment at the meeting to increase the proposed Hardship Fund by up to £170,000 later this year if it was found there was a necessity to expand the fund. The motion, with the amendment, was passed by a unanimous vote.

Pictured top: Woolwich Town Hall, where Greenwich council hold meetings (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

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