Edinburgh's poorest tenants face hike in council house rents

The council’s 20,000 tenants are facing a 2 per cent increase in rent. Picture: Ian Rutherford/JPIMediaThe council’s 20,000 tenants are facing a 2 per cent increase in rent. Picture: Ian Rutherford/JPIMedia
The council’s 20,000 tenants are facing a 2 per cent increase in rent. Picture: Ian Rutherford/JPIMedia
Edinburgh City Council is set to impose a rent hike on some of the city’s poorest households - despite last ditch efforts from opposition councillors.

As part of the city’s 2021/22 budget - due to be agreed at a meeting of the local authority today - the council’s 20,000 tenants are facing a 2 per cent increase in rent.

The rent hike forms parts of the ruling SNP and Labour administration’s budget proposals, but the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Party groups on the council are putting forward rival budget proposals that would freeze rent for a year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A report, set to go before councillors later today, reads: “The Housing Revenue Account manages the income and expenditure for the Housing Service.

Opposed to rent rise: Kevin LangOpposed to rent rise: Kevin Lang
Opposed to rent rise: Kevin Lang

“The Housing Service provides affordable homes and other services to nearly 20,000 tenants and 500 home owners in the city.

“The Housing Service is entirely self financing and receives no funding from the general fund.

“The annual revenue budget of circa £100m is almost exclusively funded from tenants’ rents (95%), with the remaining 5 per cent coming from service charges.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The annual capital investment programme is funded through a combination of prudential borrowing, Scottish Government grant funding, capital receipts and reserves.”

It continues: “Capital investment will be accompanied by improvements in how we deliver housing services to increase customer satisfaction.

“The strategy is aimed at reducing tenants’ cost of living, holding rent increases at 2 per cent and delivering financial efficiencies of 12 per cent by 2026.

“Service charges remain frozen for the sixth year in a row.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The rival Conservative budget, which will likely go up against the coalition’s budget in a vote, reads: “[The council] recognises that the council administration has not provided full service and value for money to tenants during the pandemic and agrees to freeze rent levels in 2021/22.

“[The council] agrees to manage this exceptional rent freeze and essential accelerated fabric investment through contingency funding and reserves during 2021/22 with the position being subject to annual review of the budget strategy with updated assessments of delivery of the Capital Investment Programme and Investment Strategy to be considered.”

The Liberal Democrats are also proposing a rent freeze, with Almond councillor Kevin Lang commenting: “SNP and Labour councillors have talked warm words for months about tackling poverty in Edinburgh.

“Yet here they are, supporting a hike in rents costs for those in our most deprived communities.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Covid pandemic and economic crisis has hit many of the poorest in the city.

“We have families struggling to even put food on the table.

“It is incredible that the council would even think about increasing housing rents at such a time. It simply cannot be allowed to pass.”

The Green Party group on the council have also put forward a rival budget proposal, including a rent freeze.

It reads: “We appreciate that these are unique times and there is a case, for this year only, to reconsider the planned rent rise of 2 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Over the last year, for entirely understandable reasons, there has been a delay in capital programmes and a reduction in repairs and maintenance activity.

“And that is also against a backdrop where council rents in Edinburgh are the highest in Scotland by some way, 30 per cent above the Scottish average.

“Notwithstanding the availability of housing benefit and universal credit to cover rent rises for half of tenants, for those at the margin, a rent rise of £100 a year on low and fragile incomes is significant.

“In the context of a wider debate about freezing or cutting charges, we think it is right that any such measures should be most alert to people on the lowest incomes so, in the specific circumstances of 2021-22 we propose a rent freeze.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.