The proposal follows an extensive review of the authority’s Housing Rent Strategy by a working group involving officers, councillors and tenants, and was unanimously supported by members of the council’s Communities Committee at a recent meeting.
A report before councillors explained that the strategy review had led to ‘a comprehensive re-evaluation of charges’ in light of the pandemic and its impact on the financial wellbeing of tenants.
The working group aimed to strike a balance between rent affordability and the continued delivery of housing services, with the proposals ultimately suggesting a lower level of rent increase than might have been expected.
Supporting the proposals, Communities Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling welcomed the approach taken by the working group.
“There really has been a lot of detail examined very closely throughout this process. Ultimately, this was about affordability and what the impact of any increase would have on our tenants and I think this is key to all of this.”
She added: “I think we have to bear in mind the cumulative impact of increases across day to day living on our tenants in general.
“It’s also about being able to deliver the business plan and again we were very keen to see the reinstatement of the three-year rental strategy so that people can plan ahead.”
The approach was also praised by several committee members, with Cllr Glen Reynolds saying that the ‘welfare and protection of tenants’ was at the heart of the process, while Cllr Anne Allan talked of the active role of tenants, and Cllr Victoria Harper talked of the clear presentation of the large amount of information being considered.
Communities Committee went on to unanimously support the proposal to increase by just 1.5% for 2022/23. The proposal will now be considered at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council as part of the budget setting process.
The committee also supported notional rent increases of 2.5% for 2023/24 and 3% for 2024/25, although these would be subject to consultation with tenants and further consideration and approval by Communities Committee.
Speaking after the committee, Cllr Judy Whyte said: “This really has been a collaborative effort and committee recognised the hard work of the member officer working group.
“It is clear that having tenants form part of that group played an important part in development of the proposals, and I would like to thank them again for their input and involvement.”
The committee first considered the impact of Covid 19 on the rent strategy in 2020, when the working group was formed.
As part of the review, themes of employability, poverty and inequalities, and welfare rights were explored. The group also considered the outcomes of a review of the council’s Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.
A survey of tenants was also conducted, with participants asked for views on the impact of Covid 19, rent affordability and priorities for home improvements.
The responses highlighted support for maintaining current levels of investment on day-to-day housing and repair services, as well as keeping the replacement period for bathrooms to 20 years, and including new floor coverings in bathroom upgrades.
The group also worked with the Poverty and Inequalities Lived Experience Group, which expressed a preference for planned, gradual increases in rent levels to support the improvement of homes.
The proposals were considered by the Rent Strategy Member Officer Working Group in December before being passed to Communities Committee for discussion.