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Council house rents set to rise in the Highlands

By Val Sweeney

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Highland councillors are being recommended to approve a two per cent rent rise.
Highland councillors are being recommended to approve a two per cent rent rise.

Council house tenants in the Highlands are facing a rent rise of two per cent.

Officers are recommending the increase be agreed at tomorrow’s meeting of the Highland Council housing committee.

If approved it will see the average weekly council house rent rise by £1.55 per week – from £77.70 to £79.25 – or just over £80 a year.

It comes as the council faces significant challenges over rent arrears linked to universal credit.

A consultation was held last month with tenants on proposed rent increases of either one or two per cent. Of the 1768 of 14,197 tenants who responded, 62 per cent preferred a two per cent rise in order to avoid suggested higher increases in future.

Just over 37 per cent preferred a one per cent increase which would result in a revenue deficit for the council that it said would have to be funded through service reduction or a one-off use of revenue balances.

A report by David Goldie, head of housing and building maintenance, states: "Over the last five years, Highland Council rents have been increasing at a lower rate than nationally or amongst housing associations operating in Highland.

"Currently, we have the seventh lowest average council house rent out of the 26 councils that retain housing stock and the lowest of the five main housing associations operating in the council area.”

He also says the council is facing a significant challenge regarding arrears, with strong evidence they are linked to universal credit.

At the end of November there were 4209 known universal credit claimants in mainstream council housing, of which 71 per cent were in arrears averaging £638.

Alasdair Fraser, the manager of Citizens Advice in Inverness and deputy leader of Highland Council, said: "If anyone is in difficulty with rent, whether it is council, housing association or privately-rented accommodation, we would urge them to contact Citizens Advice so we can check their benefits and help them."

Related story: Council house rents to rise

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