Council housing stock supported

Work to reduce fuel poverty, improve and expand the council’s housing stock and work more closely with social landlords has been supported by councillors today.

Members met as part of the special budget meeting of Full Council to approve the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2017/18.

The importance of the housing stock is reflected in the fact that it is treated as a separate budget, and all the income generated from the rent and service charges is used to fund the maintenance and management of the estate.

Ensuring that the council houses meet the Government’s Energy Efficiency targets is an important part of the report considered today by councillors, with money dedicated to meet these standards by 2020.

There was also a commitment to working with partners to deliver as much affordable housing in the area as possible, and to support those affected by any changes in Welfare Reform.

Among the changes approved by elected members were revisions to charges for council house rent rates as well as service charges and heat and light charges for Sheltered Housing, hostels and temporary accommodation.

Following a detailed independent consultation process with 12,400 tenants in 2015, Aberdeenshire Council agreed to increase rents by a fixed 3.75% pa for the three year period from 2016/17 to 2018/19.

Elected members today approved the agreed increase for 2017/18 which will mean the average weekly rent will rise from £68.19 to £70.75.

Service charges and heat and light charges for Sheltered Housing, hostels and temporary accommodation units, together with rents from garages and lockups, will increase by inflation (2.9%)

The Greenbanks Caravan Site is normally operational from the last week in March to the last week in September each year, as a seasonal site for travelling people. The current charge is £76.19 per week per stance. Councillors agreed to increase this charge for 2017/18 in line with the proposed increase in council house rents. The revised charge will be £79.05 per week.

The outcome of the energy efficiency review will be reported to Communities Committee and to full Council in early 2019 when energy efficiency ratings are in place for all properties

A number of changes are anticipated that will present challenges in relation to rent collection. The reduction in the benefit cap and the capping of HB in the social rented sector at Local Housing Allowance rate from 1st April 2018, which will significantly affect those placed in temporary homeless hostel accommodation.

Cllr Anne Allan, chair of the Communities Committee said: “Aberdeenshire Council can be proud of what was delivered last year, and what we have committed to today for 2017/18. Between April and December alone 189 affordable homes were completed, split between social rent and shared equity. Of course the regional downturn has impacted upon our ability to deliver the housing stock however this makes us all the more determined to work together to find innovative solutions in the coming years”.

Vice- Chair Cllr Raymond Christie said: “Ensuring that our housing stock is modern, efficient and accessible is fundamental, and I praise the work that has gone in to getting us to the place we are today. It is only with partnership and commitment that we can further improve and I was pleased to see agreement from elected members today who support this important work stream.”

The report was agreed by members.