Rugby council housing rents to increase to pay for improvements

Rents will gradually increase to cover the cost
Rents will gradually increase to cover the cost

An investment programme aimed at making council housing more energy efficient, warmer, and cheaper to heat has been approved by councillors.

All council housing will have replacement windows and doors over the next three years, starting with the most deprived areas, in a massive acceleration of a programme that was originally planned to take 12 years.

The new timetable means that all 1,100 council homes in the regeneration areas of Overslade and Brownsover will have their windows and doors replaced by March 2016, with the remainder completed over the following two years.

In addition, 20 homes will have their gas central heating systems replaced, while 170 homes will be connected to the gas main for the first time. These are the last homes to be connected, completing a ten year programme that ensures all tenants have access to this cheaper fuel to heat their homes.

The roofs of the multi-story blocks at Rounds Gardens and Biart Place will also be replaced, giving the upper floors better insulation.

In addition to the energy efficiency programme, more than 200 homes will get new bathrooms, and nearly 150 will get new kitchens in a programme of works totalling more than £5million.

Council housing rents will rise by the consumer prices index plus one per cent from April 1 to pay for the improvements, in line with government guidance. The increase means an average weekly rent rise of £1.80 for a council home.

The increase follows a government policy that aims to bring parity to housing association and council rents. But the council has adopted a “smoothing” convergence policy – increasing rents gradually – in order to meet the government target.

The policy aims to cushion tenants from larger annual rent increases while allowing the council to avoid more than £13million in interest payments over the transition period. The

“smoothing” policy also allows the council to carry on investing in new homes and improving its existing properties.

Cllr Leigh Hunt, responsible for sustainable inclusive communities at Rugby Borough Council, said: “With energy bills now making up a much higher proportion of tenants’ income it is important that we do everything we can to help our residents to keep warm.

“This investment will extend our programme of works with Nationwide Double Glazing, who have already replaced windows at 176 council properties across the borough. These additional works will make more than a third of our properties warmer and cheaper to heat this year, with all of them completed in the next three years.

“And by connecting off-grid properties to the gas main for the first time, another 200 properties will benefit from central heating rather than tricky to control storage heaters.

“However, I do understand that any increase in rent will be unwelcome. We have put in place measures to help tenants who may be finding it hard to pay their rent, for whatever reason, and any tenant who needs that support can call the housing team on (01788) 533822.”