More than 400 tenants and residents have pledged to support rent and service charge strikes in protest at rent increases and extortionate service charge rises, which will coincide with further hikes in energy bills.
The pledges were made by tenants and residents actively resisting sharp rises in housing costs which are threatening the affordability of their homes, even for those with social rents.
Most housing associations will raise rents by 7% on 1st April 2023 for those with social rent tenancies, although other tenancy types may have higher increases.
Cheryl*, a tenant of a small housing association near Milton Keynes commented:
Rents increased last year by 4.1% and now again next year by 7% yet my NHS pay has not kept up with inflation. My bills have increased so much and council tax is set to increase also, I can’t afford these increases.
I’m so worried about the future if rents keep increasing like this I won’t be able to afford to live; it’s very concerning.
Housing associations have also announced that shared owner rents will rise by 7%, ditching the standard inflation-linked formula which would have raised rents by around 18%.
Service charges however are not subject to any cap, and have been rising at alarming rates, well above inflation. Shona*, a Clarion tenant echoed the sentiments of many when she commented:
Last year I paid £83 every 6 months for my estate charges. This year the estimate is for it to cost £188.13. The accompanying letter makes reference to inflation running at 10.5% but doesn’t explain why Clarion’s fees have gone up by over 100%.
In August 2022, SHAC began a ‘Pledge’ campaign bringing together tenants and residents who protested at such rises or were unable to pay. So far, more than 400 have signed up.
Those who intend withholding all or part of their rent or service charge payments will begin doing so from 1st April, affecting a total of 61 landlords. The vast majority are housing associations, but some campaigners are council tenants.
Nearly 80% of tenants and residents from the housing associations are spread across just nine landlords. Many of these landlords are the largest and most highly commercialised in the housing association sector.
The housing associations named have all enjoyed large operating surpluses according to their 2021/22 financial statements:
- Clarion – £303 million
- Hyde – £81.7 million
- L&Q – £241 million
- Riverside – £105.3 million
- MTVHA – £135 million
- NHG – £144 million
- Peabody – £169 million
- Southern – £71.2 million (pre-merger with Optivo)
- Sanctuary – £58.6 million
SHAC members have argued that surpluses should be used to subsidise rents and service charges in line with their social landlord commitments to provide affordable housing.
The campaign is demanding that government and housing associations freeze rents and service charges during the cost-of-living crisis. See more here.
* Not her real name.
11 March 2023
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