Huge rent rises are expected in Westminster as the Conservative-controlled Council unveils plans to set new social housing rents at 40% of net incomes for some households, increasing rents by 300% to £350 a week.
Westminster also proposes to abolish existing life-time tenancy arrangements with 5 year tenancies being offered to all new tenants. The Council says that the 5 year tenancies will not be renewed if the tenant is ‘under-occupying’ the property, or has been found guilty of ’serious anti-social behaviour’ or has a household income of over £61,400 (for a 1 or 2 bed flat).
The Council says that tenants deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ their flats will not have their tenancy renewed unless they agree to move to a smaller flat. Those with a household income of over £61,400 will have their tenancy renewed only if they agree to pay an increased rent equivalent to 40% of their after-tax income.
Labour say these tenancy changes show the contempt that Conservative Councillors have for those on low incomes. The Conservative mantra that “living in Westminster is a privilege, not a right”, runs right through the Council’s consultation document, say Labour.
Long-standing Council tenants in St John’s Wood are already being hard-hit by the Council’s mean-minded ‘under-occupancy’ approach.
Justifying higher rents for those on average incomes, the Council says;
“Using the Mayor’s affordability limits for eligibility for intermediate housing are good indicators that households can afford to access other housing or can pay more rent. These limits are; a gross income of £61,400 for 1 and 2 bedroom households and £74,000 for 3 bedroom and over households. Capital assets should also be taken into account and can be assessed as notional income in the way that is commonly used for benefit purposes. This means that capital over £16,000 is assumed to generate income.
“When calculating income and capital, the City Council supports taking the tenant’s income into account plus that of their partner or spouse and also some income and capital of wider family members. It needs to be recognised that some young people will be saving to move on and live independently. Including the income and capital of family members over 30, that have been in sustained employment for 2 or more years, helps to provide a balance.
“Where more rent can be charged – the Mayor’s guidelines are supported, that housing costs should not exceed 40% of net income with net income being 74% of gross.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said; “These tenancy changes show so very clearly how the Conservatives are now ‘cracking the whip’ at Westminster’s low income families. These changes will make those living in social housing less secure and fearful for their long term security. Five years is no time at all, and throughout the five years tenants will be watching out for new hurdles that the Council might want to introduce to make it more difficult for them to renew their tenancies.
“As part of these new tenancy arrangements, those hard-working families fortunate enough to get a job on average incomes can look forward to Westminster Conservatives taking away 40% of their after-tax income just to stay in their flat. This is a direct attack on people on average incomes, dressed up as ‘fairness’. The reality is that tenants will have no choice but to pay a massive increase in rent, or lose their home.
Councillor Guthrie McKie, Labour’s Housing spokesperson, says; “This document shows the deep prejudice the Conservatives have against Council tenants. Ending lifetime security will work against the principle of stable communities that want to develop and strengthen their social links. The number of families whose children are involved in anti-social activity is small and the Council should work with other agencies to resolve this.
“The one thing missing from this document is the recognition that more Council housing needs to be built. At the present a family in overcrowded or unacceptable housing will have to wait 7- 10 years to be rehoused. That is a scandal that the Council is not addressing.”Other news from Westminster Labour