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Council house rent to go up by 6.5% in Carmarthenshire

New council houses being built in Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, in 2021 (Pic: Richard Youle)

COUNCIL house rent in Carmarthenshire will go up by 6.5% in April, taking the average weekly cost to £105.90.

The authority has just over 9,300 houses, flats, bungalows and maisonettes, and wants to build more of them.

But a meeting of full council heard that it is running out of land so will now seek to buy sites from private landowners.

Cllr Alun Lenny, cabinet member for resources, said setting rents was a “fine balance” and that council properties were still far cheaper than in the private sector where average weekly rents for two and three-bed properties in Carmarthenshire were said to be £155 and £183 per respectively.

A report before full council said tenants’ rents would bring in just over £50m in 2024-25 with service charges and other revenue taking the total day-to-day income to £53.2m. This £53.2m sum will mainly fund maintenance and repairs (£17.9m), paying back borrowing (£15.2m), and supervision and management costs (£12.5m).

A new handyman service on larger council estates is to be trialled and more housing officers will be out and about on the ground. Both these initiatives will cost £250,000.

The council also plans to invest £36.2m next year building and acquiring new homes plus upgrading or adapting existing ones. Just under half the £36.2m capital sum will go on the new homes programme with £1.6m of it to buy development sites with more money allocated in the following two years.

Cllr Gareth John welcomed the level of investment and ambition being shown and asked where in the county the council’s land-acquisition focus would be.

Cllr Linda Evans, cabinet member for homes, said she couldn’t share details at this stage but said housing need was greater in urban areas. The plan, she said, was to build on larger sites than currently. “If I’m honest this is the only way we will get to grips with this demand.”

One way of easing demand is minimising the number of empty council houses and Cllr Evans said the latest empty home figure was 189 compared to 433 in May 2022.

The council report said Carmarthenshire has 2,016 more affordable homes than it did in 2016. These have been built by housing associations as well as the council and also include properties acquired from the private sector.

The report added that there were specific improvement works planned longer term for Danybanc and Llundain Fach, Llanelli, where drainage is a particular issue, and Woods Row Court, Carmarthen, which needs roofing and other repair work. Long-term improvements are also planned at Pen y Fan and Clos St Paul, Llanelli, while 10 hard-to-heat homes at Maes Glas, Llandovery, are to be upgraded over three years.

Cllr Rob Evans said the council’s housing plans sounded great but that the reality was different. He said he was ashamed as a councillor to visit a council property in his Dafen and Felinfoel ward, Llanelli, which he said was riddled with mould.

“As you walked through the door the actual smell of the mould was absolutely shocking,” he said.

Cllr Evans said the female tenant had lived in the property with her children since 2019 and felt she had been “kicked into the long grass” although he said the authority was now taking action to address the issue. Cllr Evans’ view was that the property needed re-rendering and re-plastering and he invited the cabinet member for homes to visit it. In response Cllr Linda Evans said she would be willing to but added that full council was not the appropriate place to raise individual housing complaints.

The council report said the authority aimed to prevent damp and mould problems by inspecting council houses and giving advice to tenants about what they could do.

Cllr Kevin Madge said the council should build more sheltered accommodation and that new-build schemes should be in rural as well as urban areas. “When it comes to buying land we need to be fair across the county,” he said.

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