Plans to meet the 2050 ambition for everyone in Southend-on-Sea to have a home that meets their needs have been outlined as part of the council’s proposed 2021/22 budget (Cabinet, 14 January, item 9).
The report highlights how a proposed £53m investment from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) could be used to improve council homes in the Borough over the next five years, enable the council to continue with its plans to develop more affordable council housing for those on the Home Seeker’s register and buy more properties as part of its housing acquisitions programme.
It also recommends an average rent increase of 1.5% on all council tenancies and 1.5% increase on all shared ownership properties.
A major investment of £28m has also been recommended up to 2024/25 to maintain and keep the council’s 5,900 homes to decent homes standard, and improve those that need it. The programme of work includes;
- electrical rewiring
- bathroom installations
- new roofs
- new kitchens
- door replacements
- new, more energy efficient boilers
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “We want to make sure everyone has ‘a home that meets their needs’. We want to do this by increasing the number of properties in the Borough, improving the existing housing stock we already have, and increasing access to different types of housing and prevent homelessness.”
A new Government-set policy which came to effect in April 2020, means rent levels will see a 1.5% increase. In real terms, this means a £1.07 weekly increase for those in a one bedroom council tenancy, to £1.79 weekly increase for a five bedroom council tenancy.
There will also be a 1.5% increase for garage rent to £12.20 per week for tenants and £14.64 for non-tenants (including VAT). Those in sheltered accommodation will also see a 1.5% increase of £1.17 per week, taking the weekly rent to £78.85.
Cllr Gilbert said: “We understand in the context of what has happened in 2020, these small rises might be a struggle for some and I want to reiterate that our housing officers are there to offer help and support should it be needed.
“But we have to be able to provide safe and secure homes for everyone in the Borough and with this budget, we can stay in the black, carry out necessary improvements and invest in additional properties in the Borough through the housing pipeline and acquisitions programme.”
The report also includes details of the proposed management fee to South Essex Homes, for the following financial year, which includes increased investment in fire safety. Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, South Essex Homes has been proactive in its approach to fire safety, working closely with the council and Essex County Fire and Rescue to manage, co-ordinate and enhance existing arrangements and make improvements.
The draft budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet on Thursday 14 January, the council’s three scrutiny committees at the start of February, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at Full Council on Thursday 25 February.