The Cambridge City Council Liberal Democrat Group's amendment to the Housing Budget that will be tabled at the Housing Scrutiny committee on Wednesday 17th January provides much needed help to Cambridge council tenants, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet in the city.
Councillor Rod Cantrill, Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Spokes commented:
"Our amendment provides much needed help for council housing tenants. Many tenants, particularly new ones, have told us about not being able to make ends meet and they are worried about the changeover to Universal Credit this year. They are also fed up with the state of many of the communal and community areas where they live, that is impacting on community spirit.
"Our proposals will help large families renting one of the new 500 new council houses to save up to £2,000 per year. In addition, we will hire more staff to help existing tenants moving to Universal Credit, to ensure the move is as smooth as possible. We will also make a big investment of up to £1m in improving the communal and community spaces across the council's housing portfolio.
"Finally, the council is looking to force council tenants to pay for small repairs. This will hit all tenants, but will hit vulnerable tenants the most, such as those in sheltered housing. We will ensure the council continues to provide free small repairs for sheltered housing tenants and will incorporate this into tenancy agreements so that a cut cannot be introduced in the future."
The amendment reflects the concerns that council tenants across the city have voiced regarding the cost of living in a new council property, the impact of the introduction of Universal Credit and the deterioration of the community and estate areas on many of the housing sites.
The Liberal Democrat proposals seek to:
Save a large Cambridge family renting one of the new 500 council houses up to £2,000 per year
- The Liberal Democrats propose to rent out new large council houses at the historical social rent level rather than the more expensive Local Housing Allowance level proposed by the Council
- The move would provide much needed help for large families renting 3 bedroom or more properties (over 250 such households on the Housing Register at this time)
- These families are finding it really hard to make ends meet, and may have their benefits capped when Universal Credit is introduced
Employ an additional housing officer to assist tenants in the transition to Universal Credit in 2018
- The pilot roll out of Universal Credit highlights the challenges people face when their benefit payments are put into a single payment, particularly vulnerable people
- Many council tenants are vulnerable, so this is a much needed role to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible for them
Undertake a baseline inspection of the communal and estate areas and undertake up to £1m investment renewal programme
- The council has many communal and community spaces across its housing portfolio that often tenants pass to get to their home, their upkeep and maintenance is critical to the wellbeing of the community
- The condition of these areas has deteriorated, often with existing budgets for upkeep not being spent
- This measure will be a tangible step by the council to show tenants that it cares about them and their communities
Continue higher level of response repairs for vulnerable tenants in sheltered housing
- Council is exploring ways of reducing the response repairs that it pays for, forcing tenants to meet the cost. This will have a big impact on tenants, particularly vulnerable ones such as those living in sheltered housing accommodation
- This step ensures that the council continues to meet the cost of response repairs for sheltered housing tenants and not only that, will make it explicit in their tenancy agreement so that changes can not be introduced in the future.