Perth and Kinross targets £69.4m housing investment with 3.5% rent increase

A 3.5% increase in council rents throughout Perth and Kinross will be put to councillors next week to help fund the local authority’s planned five-year investment programme of £69.4 million.

The rent level will be decided at a meeting of Perth & Kinross Council’s housing and communities committee on Wednesday 29th January, with the increase being recommended in line with tenants’ views.

Rent levels in Perth and Kinross are currently the sixth-lowest when compared to other local authorities in Scotland, and are projected to remain as one of the lowest council rent levels in the country. The council said the proposed rise would reflect its continued commitment to maintaining rent levels that are affordable for tenants whilst maintaining good performance and high levels of tenant satisfaction.

As part of work to involve tenants in discussions on rent setting, for the third year running each tenant was given the chance to vote on three different rent increase options. These options were based on what tenants said their priorities are for investment during an ongoing process of extensive engagement.

A total of 1,251 tenants responded to the consultation, an increase of 16% on the previous year, with 56% saying they preferred the option of a 3.5% increase. This increase would allow the council to make new and increased investment in:

  • Ensuring the Housing repairs service can meet increased demand
  • Increased investment in planned maintenance for homes
  • Recruiting a dedicated housing occupational therapist and introducing a personalised tenant budget to support people in their tenancies
  • Buying-back council homes (£4m for approximately 30 properties)
  • Refurbishing homes (£1m)
  • Achieving a target of 400 new-build homes over the next five years.
  • Supporting mobile working for housing staff

Tenants’ rents will also pay for a planned investment programme of £69.4m in their homes for the five-year period from April 2020 to March 2025.

Feedback from tenants has influenced these spending priorities, which include:

  • Kitchens and bathrooms - £6.7m
  • Rewiring/infrastructure - £3m
  • Energy efficiency works - £2.2m
  • Multi-storey flat improvements - £2.1m
  • Fire precaution measures - £2m
  • Central heating renewal - £1.3m
  • Structural works - £1.3m
  • Property refurbishment - £1m
  • Environmental improvements - £0.7m
  • Sound insulation - £0.5m
  • Triple glazing - £0.3m    

Housing and communities convener, Councillor Bob Brawn, said: “The proposed increase in rent would give Perth & Kinross Council an average rental figure of £71.22 per week. We would continue to have one of the lowest local authority rent in Scotland whilst being able to make the important investment in Housing Services that our tenants have told us they want to see.

“Our Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is also facing general increases in costs in areas of service delivery, particularly repairs and improvements. This is due to an increase in our stock numbers through our successful new-build and buyback programme - in turn meaning more properties become available for re-let requiring any necessary works to be completed before a new tenant moves in.

“I would like to sincerely thank all of our tenants who took part in this consultation on rent levels. We’ll continue to work very closely in partnership with our tenants to ensure we continue to deliver high-quality services for them.”

Meanwhile, tenants have also helped review several of the local authority’s housing policies to make sure they are written in understandable language and are customer-focussed.

Working groups made up of tenants and housing staff looked at the Rechargeable Repairs Policy and Common Repairs Policy last year.

The Rechargeable Repairs Policy sets out a clear and consistent approach to recharging tenants for repairs that they are responsible for during their tenancy. The Common Repairs Policy relates to mixed-tenure blocks where homeowners are jointly responsible with the Council for a share of maintenance costs.

Tenants spent time last year examining both policies to ensure they remain relevant, up-to-date and are easily understandable. The revised policies will be presented to the meeting of the housing and communities committee for approval.

Committee vice convener, Councillor Chris Ahern, said: “This work in partnership with our tenants reflects the council’s continued commitment to ensuring that the services we deliver reflect their views.

“It’s very important that our policies are reviewed regularly to make sure they continue to meet our business needs and are clear and transparent for our tenants and residents.

“This excellent example of close partnership working with our tenants has resulted in updated versions of these two important policies. I’m delighted that tenants were able to get involved and I’d like to thank everyone who took part for giving up their time to help.”

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