Local authority agrees one per cent rise in council house rents

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Highland Council has agreed a modest increase in council house rents, in what many described as a careful ‘balancing act’.

Highland has among the cheapest rents in Scotland, averaging £79.25 a week.

Councillors on the local authority’s Housing and Property Committee last week agreed to increase this by one per cent in the next financial year, adding 79p a week to the average rent.

The below-inflation increase takes account of the rising cost of living and escalating fuel bills. Highland Council says it is the lowest increase in years, with rents increased by three per cent in 2020.

The one per cent rise allows the housing service to balance the books without needing to make any service cuts. The council faces increasing costs from loan charges, staff pay rises and tenant arrears.

Some councillors were concerned that the rent increase was not enough.  Housing officers accepted it was a difficult decision, but claimed a one per cent rise is the most sustainable option for tenants.

‘Many of our tenants live in relative or absolute poverty,’ said executive officer Mark Rodgers.

Councillor Allan Henderson (Caol and Mallaig) added: ‘Anyone who comes up to the Highlands for a cheap rent will soon find out we’ve got acute fuel poverty, high distribution costs to put up with and difficult IT solutions.’

Mr Henderson referred members to a tenant survey which showed that 63 per cent felt a one per cent rent increase was reasonable.

‘The Highland Council is of the people and the people have suggested that one percent at this moment of time would be the right amount. There’s a consensus of opinion from the members this morning,’ he added.

The rent increase will apply to all Housing Revenue Account properties and rents to Gypsy/traveller sites. Non-HRA rents will also increase according to contract terms.