COUNCIL house tenants in Caerphilly County Borough will pay nearly £7 more in rent each week from April 2024.
The council’s cabinet yesterday agreed a 6.7% rent rise, which is the maximum allowed under Welsh Government rules.
Rental costs for council-owned garages will also increase by 6.7%.
On the same day the council confirmed it would close four housing office branches, cabinet members and officers defended the rent rises.
They argued the costs to live in a council home would still be around “half” of those in the private rental market, and the money generated would pay for maintenance and the building of new homes.
Shayne Cook, the cabinet member for housing, said the council’s Housing Revenue Account had “experienced cost increases”.
The vast majority of the council’s tenants – some 77% – had their rent paid through housing benefits or Universal Credit, he added.
Elaine Forehead, the cabinet member for social care, questioned the “affordability” of the new rents, which on average will increase each week from £99.72 to £106.40.
Nick Taylor-Williams, the council’s head of housing, said the council was charging rents for two-bedroomed accommodation that was less than half the private market rate, and for one-bed housing the council was asking for less than two-thirds of the average charge in the private rental market.
Council leader Sean Morgan noted the differences were “quite significant” and “half price, basically”.
Eluned Stenner, the cabinet member for finance, asked how Caerphilly’s proposed rent increases “compare to other social housing rent”?
Mr Taylor-Williams said Caerphilly Council’s rents would remain the third-lowest in Wales after the increase, adding that other local authorities were also proposing to raise rents by the maximum 6.7% allowed.
But he told the cabinet a rent rise would not mean the council pursues more evictions for non-payments.
He said there had been “no evictions just as a result of affordability pressures” during his time in post, and “very low evictions [generally]”.
Increasing rents by 6.7% would “raise an additional £3.7 million” for the council, which could be spent on its new-build programme and maintenance of its housing stock, Mr Taylor-Williams added.
The cabinet went on to approve the permanent closure of four housing offices – in Gilfach, Graig y Rhacca, Lansbury Park, and Ty Sign – and the relocation of housing support services at the council’s headquarters in Tredomen.
Cllr Cook said the move would allow staff to “spend more time out in communities” and the meeting heard the former offices could be repurposed for housing.
The local authority will also launch a customer portal next year, Cllr Cook added, making it “easier” for tenants to communicate with the council’s housing department and view important documents.