Council house rents set to rise by 7 per cent in Lancaster

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
People who rent homes with Lancaster City Council could see their payments rise by seven per cent from April.

The city council manages different types of housing across the Lancaster and Morecambe district, including smaller flats, family homes and sheltered accommodation.

The council’s cabinet is looking at a range of housing topics this week, ahead of formally debating and agreeing the new budget in a few weeks. Topics include proposed rents, dealing with people who fall behind in rent, repairs, upgrades, council house sales and potential new homes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Proposals for council housing rent and cash reserves earmarked for home maintenance and repairs are among the items being looked at.

Council house rents could rise in Lancaster from April.Council house rents could rise in Lancaster from April.
Council house rents could rise in Lancaster from April.

Coun Cary Matthews, the cabinet member with a housing remit, has put forward recommendations for the cabinet. If agreed these will go the full council budget meeting for a final decision.

A council officer’s report for the cabinet highlights the plan to increase existing rents by seven per cent from April. In general, this would see typical payments rise from £78.24 to £83.96 in the new financial year. Payments are made on a 52-week basis.

Rents for sheltered and supported housing would rise from £73.49 to £79.00 under the plan

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For people in new tenancies, rents will be set at what is called a formula rent. This considers property values, local earnings and the size of the home (the number of bedrooms) in line with national guidance from a government body. This could be higher than seven per cent, which the government has capped nationally for existing council house tenants.

The city council housing report says specific rents can vary depending on property type, area and size. For example, weekly rent can be £60 for a bedsit at Lancaster’s Mainway estate or £123 for a four-bedroom house in Bolton-le-Sands. For sheltered housing, rents can be £62 for a bedsit at Beck View at Hala Hill, Lancaster, or £100 for a two-bedroom flat at Caton’s Artlebeck Close.

In other rental topics, the report recommends that garage rents should be frozen for 12 months rather than increased. In the past, rent rises have been based on inflation from the official consumer price index.

Difficulties with paying rent

In dealing with the problem of rent arrears, when people fall behind with payments, the cabinet report states: “The 2022-23 financial year has seen continued support to tenants around rent arrears. Having ended 2021-22 with record-low arrears of £99,000. the [council housing] team continues to perform at the highest level. Arrears at the end of quarter-three this financial year were £124,000. This is a reduction of 19 per cent on the same week in the previous year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
Lancaster Monopoly: readers have their say on which landmarks should appear on t...

“This success has been achieved with a supportive, pro-active approach, with almost no legal action. At quarter three of the 2022-23 financial year, only three housing possession cases and three warrant applications had been made. Eighty seven tenancy health checks have been completed, supporting tenants in new tenancies and realising an increase in tenant income of over £14,000 through income and benefit work.”

An energy support officer has visited almost 200 homes this year to date, offering advice, the report adds,

Home upgrades across the district

Home improvements to the whole of properties and energy upgrades at Mount Avenue in Lancaster are nearing completion, the report adds.

Across the district, around 10,000 responsive repairs to homes have been done over the past 12 months, Nearly 190 vacant homes have been refurbished. The council has also moved from a 10-year to a five-year electric testing programme for all its homes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Looking ahead, planning permission has been gained for a new four-bedroom energy-efficient housing scheme at Alder Grove. Work will begin later this year,

Two housing events were held with Hala and Branksome residents last summer and –community plans are being developed with them. A community plan for Ryelands was agreed by residents there in October.

A final phase of 27 home energy upgrades and internal refurbishments willbe completed this year, working up to a total of 56 homes on the Mount Avenue estate. People will benefit from lower heating bills and emissions could be cut too.

Other important developments in the new year could be the introduction of Tenant Satisfaction Measures, the legally-required registration of high-rise buildings, a government review of housing professionals and a possible Ofsted-style inspection.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Right to buy impact

Right to buy laws for tenants have led to a decrease in the number of council homes, the cabinet report adds. Fifteen right to buy home sales were completed in the 2022-23 financial year. Estimates expect 18 home sales per year in future years.

In the past 12 months, conversion of a former independent living office property delivered an additional new home, and three dwellings were bought back as part of the pilot phase of the Mainway estate regeneration scheme.

However the report adds: “The city council continues to have ambitions for the development of its own new affordable or social rented homes. The 2023-24 year is seen as a critical juncture in progressing designs to planning applications, before seeking funding though grants, borrowing and partnerships.”

The focus for the next 12 months includes a planning application to convert garage sites into single people’s or family homes, to progress the wider Mainway masterplan including buying redundant parts of Skerton High School; and a planning application for Coopers Field in Lancaster’s Canal Quarter with a housing provider to develop a variety of homes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The future development of the Canal Quarter was discussed at various council meetings last year. Factors including balancing the housing needs of older people, families and students, the changing role of town centres and changing economic backdrop were among the considerations.