25 January 2024

'Warm and comfortable homes' a priority for tenants as 5% increases proposed for council rents

Aberdeenshire Council is to be recommended to increase council rents by 5% in each of the next three years, as a result of detailed discussions involving tenants.

The recommendation will be made by the council’s Communities Committee, which considered the findings of a working group involving councillors, council officers and tenant representatives on Wednesday (Jan 24).

Aberdeenshire Council manages a 30-year business plan that outlines the cost of investment and the level of income required to support delivery of housing services to tenants and applicants.

The working group was set up to examine the plan in March last year, tasked with looking at the short, medium, and long-term financial challenges, and to develop proposals reflecting those challenges while managing rent affordability.

The group considered four options looking at increases over the next three years, covering possible rises of between 3% and 7.5% from year to year.

Engagement with tenants and stakeholders was key to the process, and a programme of consultation was undertaken, featuring workshops, focus groups, interviews, and a survey of a sample of tenants from a range of backgrounds.

A total of 44% of just over 1,300 respondents expressed preference for the 5% increase in each of the next three years, supporting consistency in rent increases over the period. The rise would work out as an extra £4.41 per week over the coming year.

Those who participated were also asked for their views on priorities for the housing service, with increasing/improving the insulation of homes, investment in new heating systems, and new doors and windows proving most popular.

There was also substantial support for continued investment in new homes where feasible, as part of wider aims to reduce the number of empty homes and other properties.

Discussing the working group’s findings, Communities Committee members agreed that there should be further exploration of the reasons some respondents did not express a preference. The committee went on to agree to recommend the 5% rises be brought before the full council.

Speaking after the meeting, Communities Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling said: “Income generated from council rents supports delivery of our 30-year business plan, so involving tenants in developing the proposals is an important part of helping us focus our priorities now and into the future.

“What the working group heard this year from tenants was a desire for the council to focus on making sure homes are kept warm and comfortable through improved insulation and efficient heating systems, and this will help guide our ongoing discussions about service priorities.”

Committee vice-chair Cllr Sarah Brown added: “The proposed increases aim to strike a balance between meeting the challenges faced by our housing service while keeping rents affordable, ensuring that tenant voices are heard as part of that process.

“We’d very much like to thank the tenant representatives who have played such an important part in the working group, as well as all those who took part in workshops and responded to the survey.”

The proposed rent increases will be considered during Aberdeenshire Council’s budget meeting on Thursday, February 22.

A workshop on priorities in the housing revenue account business plan is due to take place in the spring before being reported back to Communities Committee.