Fife agrees ‘lowest possible’ rents rise for council house tenants
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Housing services convener Judy Hamilton said the rise - supported by nearly two-thirds of residents at consultation - was the lowest it could support without negatively impacting its budget.
The Liberal Democrat group failed in its attempt to defer discussions until March 11, at which point it would have called for a rent freeze in line with the Council Tax freeze supported by Scottish Government funding.
Average weekly rents for council tenants will increase from £75.45 to £76.58 from April, the lowest rise for several years in a conciliatory move to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 5,000 households received rent support from the council in the last year for reasons linked to Covid-19.
However, tenants face a 3.5% rise in 2022/23 and 2023/24 that will eventually push weekly rents north of £80.
Cllr Hamilton also detailed how the SNP-Labour joint administration aims to invest £9.6 million in fuel poverty, £93 million in repairs and £89.7m in new affordable housing, among other major projects.
She said: "We were open and transparent and tenants are very well aware of what they get with their money. The proposals before you have the support of my tenants."
However, the proposed rise was rubbished by Lib Dem councillor Jonny Tepp, who said a full range of options should be considered.
He said: "If you live in an affordable home and you don't claim housing benefit life will be more difficult next year in terms of the rent you have to pay. The proposal to increase rent is not fair and should be reconsidered."
Cllr Tepp's motion was backed by fellow Lib Dem David Calder, but they were accused of being "cynical and opportunistic in the extreme" by Labour administration co-leader David Ross.
Failing to hike rates by a "modest" 1.5% would leave a £3 million hole in Fife's housing budget, he said, potentially forcing the council to cut jobs, investment and local area housing budgets.
Councillors voted 51-15 in favour of the rent rise, with threeabstaining.