Fears grant will raise home rents
5:30am Wednesday 23rd April 2014 in By Dominic Gilbert
SWINDON Tenants’ Campaign Group have urged Swindon Council not to bid for a grant to build affordable new homes in the town, branding the terms ‘unacceptable’.
In January the Government made a pot of £1.7bn available for local authorities to bid for.
The money is to go on schemes to increase the stock of affordable housing.
And proposals to apply for almost £3.5m to build 150 new homes will go before cabinet tonight.
These would be built in the next four years and made available for just 80 per cent of market-rate rents, but the tenants’ group say this would still be a substantial increase above council rents.
Martin Wicks, Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group secretary, above, said: “The introduction of so-called affordable rent will mean that the council ends up with 203 less genuinely affordable homes for rent than it currently does.
“If the council really wants to tackle the housing crisis then we need more social rent homes, but with this proposal we would have less.
“The affordable rent would be up to £61 higher than council rent.
“This means that most of those people who would get tenancies would be those receiving full housing benefit.
“Low wage workers are unlikely to be able to afford the higher rents.
“Affordable rent will increase year on year by an amount greater than the rest of the council's housing stock.
“Instead of supporting the Government's policy of driving up social housing rent towards private market levels Swindon Council should be defending the principle of council rents for council homes.
“We need to build new council homes but if we use the borrowing cap available we can charge council rents and not have conditions imposed on us by the Government.
“To build the number of homes on a sufficient scale to cut numbers on the waiting list requires a change of national policy.
“However, the council can borrow from the Government's Public Works Loan Board at cheaper rates of interest, and charge council rents.
“At least we would be able to counteract the loss of homes resulting from the Government's right to buy policy.”
The report prepared for councillors ahead of tonight’s meeting says: “The additional grant funding that will be provided by affordable rents will be of direct benefit to all tenants enabling the benefits of the capital programme to reach more tenants.
“It will also assist the most vulnerable households at the top of the waiting list who are waiting for housing.
“It is up to each bidder to negotiate terms to their business plans.
“The level of grant required will be the most important factor that will give Swindon’s bid a competitive edge.
“The guidance says that rents should be set up to 80 per cent. “Setting rents below 80 per cent will generate less income and will have an effect on financial viability.”
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