Cheshire West council has sanctioned a rent increase for thousands of social housing tenants, citing the necessity to tackle damp and mould issues that have been labelled a ‘social disgrace’. The decision comes amidst concerns over the living conditions in the borough’s social housing stock, with the council emphasising the need for additional funds to address these pressing issues.
The proposed rent rise, endorsed by the ruling cabinet, would see a significant 7.7 per cent increase for tenants residing in Cheshire West’s social housing properties, effective from April of this year. This adjustment aims to boost the average weekly rent from £91.88 to £98.95 for most of the council’s 5,314 social housing units. Similarly, the average weekly rent for affordable housing, catering to low earners, is set to rise from £118.35 to £127.47 per week.
Managed by ForHousing under a housing management contract, the council’s housing stock requires substantial investment to meet the government’s decent homes standard. This standard outlines minimum requirements for property condition, landlord obligations, and fire safety regulations, highlighting the urgency of addressing issues such as damp and mould.
During the council meeting, the cabinet member for homes, planning, and safer communities highlighted the critical nature of the rent increase in maintaining services and investing in property improvements. Despite facing challenges due to illness, the cabinet member stressed the financial significance of the proposed hike, indicating that any decrease below the proposed 7.7 per cent would result in substantial revenue loss, impacting the council’s ability to undertake necessary upgrades.
Echoing concerns over the prevalence of damp and mould in social housing, the finance and legal representative emphasised the need for prompt action to address these issues. The representative expressed disappointment with the slow response of registered social landlords in tackling the problem, citing evidence linking damp and mould to adverse health effects, particularly among children.
The urgency to address housing conditions was further underscored by last year’s tragic incident involving the death of a two-year-old child, whose respiratory condition was attributed to exposure to mould in his social housing residence in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. This incident prompted the government to announce forthcoming guidance for landlords regarding mould and damp management.
Reflecting on personal experiences, a council member expressed dismay that the issue of damp and mould persists despite decades of awareness, labelling it a ‘social disgrace’. However, the member remained optimistic about the commitment of the council’s house management board, comprising five tenants, to improve living standards for social housing residents.
With cabinet approval secured, the proposed rent increase now awaits final ratification by the full council in the upcoming week. This decision signals a concerted effort by Cheshire West council to address long-standing issues of damp and mould, prioritising the well-being and living conditions of social housing tenants. As the council progresses with its initiatives, the focus remains on delivering tangible improvements and ensuring that social housing meets the highest standards of habitability and safety for all residents.