‘I have no more money for you’: Residents split on council plan for rent hike – with some ‘petrified’ of being made homeless

“I seriously can’t afford any more rent. I have no more money for you now,” one resident told Town Hall bosses proposing a seven per cent rent increase.

The tenant from Camden Town said with council tax, heat and lighting increases, it would be difficult to stomach a rent hike.

The council is planning to put up rents after being hit with increased costs.

The move could see tenants in a two-bedroom home having to find an extra £446 a year.

It comes after inflation soared to 11.1 per cent and fuel prices ramped up, on top of the economic damage caused by Covid.

Rising costs have put  “unprecedented pressure” on energy, repairs, maintenance, and housing services.

More stringent fire and building safety rules following the Grenfell fire disaster will also add to the council’s expenditure.

Town Hall number-crunchers warned: “All of this means that the finances of the Housing Revenue Account are now at a very precarious point.”

A capped rent increase of seven per cent would generate £8.2m next year, while a service charge hike would raise a further £2.3m.

The five district management committees representing council tenants across Camden voted two in favour and two against – Hampstead and Camden Town – with Kentish Town suggesting a five per cent increase instead.

Their vote adds to the headache for the cabinet member for better homes, Meric Apak, who said it had been painful to come up with the proposed increases.

A Holborn resident said: “We have loads of struggling families. They are absolutely petrified of this rent setting meeting. They are scared they will be out on the streets.”

Council bosses said this would not happen.

One tenant told councillors: “You need to try and shield people from this at the moment.”

Residents pointed out pay has not increased by seven per cent for most people and those on zero-hour contracts or just above the threshold for housing benefit or Universal Credit are struggling.

One tenants’ representative warned about the “real and serious” impact on people’s mental health.

Cllr Apak urged tenants’ groups: “If people are in difficulties, contact the council. Help is available.”

Energy costs are expected to pose a £26.4m pressure on the budget.

The ring-fenced heating pool account has also been hit hard.

There are 10,936 tenants and 3,763 leaseholders who get district heating or gas supply from the council. Of these, 2,000 are on meters, whilst 10,000 are in the heating pool.

The council has seen wholesale gas prices rocket by approximately 1,500 per cent. In December 2022, the gas supply price had increased by 261 per cent and electricity was up 83 per cent.

There were mixed views on the proposed communal heating charges. Camden Town voted no, whilst there were two votes for a 125 per cent increase, one for a 150 per cent rise, and one for a 175 per cent jump, or £24.64 a week. It would be reduced again if energy prices drop.

Residents said they are frustrated that energy is being wasted, with lights on during the day and people with communal heating opening their windows because they cannot turn the heating down.

One Holborn resident said the heating was on all the time in their community room.

Residents also called for further retrofitting of homes and low-energy or sensor lighting and meters to help control heating.

Most groups agreed to all the proposed service charge increases.

One man urged the council to increase garage charges to a more commercial rate rather than the proposed £2 a week increase.

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