By Roz Scott
Tenants across Brighton and Hove are struggling to pay their rent because the city is a “low wage economy with excessively high property costs”, according to a council housing committee report.
The Living Rent Campaign petitioned councillors last year asking them to support the aim of keeping rents to a third of a tenant’s income.
Councillors agreed to explore “ways to offer new council housing at a living rent rather than an unaffordable 80 per cent of market rent”.
At the Housing and New Homes Committee, Green councillor David Gibson urged his fellow councillors to support the “living rent” and refer rent levels to the Brighton and Hove Fairness Commission.
The commission is exploring causes of inequality and aiming to work out ways to make Brighton and Hove a fairer and more equal place to live and work.
It was set up by Brighton and Hove City Council but is an independent body charged with listening to the concerns of residents, community organisations and businesses.
Councillor Gibson’s proposal to refer rent levels to the Fairness Commission was unanimously agreed by the Housing and New Homes Committee.
In the July summer budget this year, the Chancellor announced that rents for social housing will be reduced by 1 per cent a year for four years from April 2016.
The small reduction in rent will benefit some tenants but reduce the revenue available to the council.
From April 2017 “high income” households earning over £30,000 will be charged market or near market rent (“Pay to Stay”).
However, the council will have to return the additional rent to the Treasury.
Other proposals from the Green Party were rejected because budget setting is the remit of the Policy and Resources Committee.
These proposals aimed to 1) set a consultation timetable for tenants before the November budget report and 2) set up a working group to see what the rents pay for from the General Fund and Housing Revenue Account.
A further report must now be presented to the Housing and New Homes Committee before a decision about rent levels can be taken.