Shock as rent regime changes delayed
The government has shelved plans for council tenants' rents to rise to the levels charged by housing associations. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister this week shocked councils and housing associations with the announcement it was to delay changes to the rents regime until April 2006. The ODPM's review of rent restructuring had said changes would come in the spring of next year. Two of the main proposals in the review were that councils and associations should both use the formula currently used by associations and landlords would be able to charge more for larger homes. The Association of London Government, which was highly critical of consultation on the rent restructuring review and was opposed to all landlords using the same formula, welcomed the announcement. The organisation had been lobbying against the changes right up until the last minute. The announcement had originally been expected last week. Housing panel chair Tony Newman said: ‘We have raised concerns about the potential impact of these proposals which when combined with earlier rent restructuring rent rises could have led to substantial rent increases for London social housing tenants.' A statement from the ODPM said: ‘It has been decided not to implement [the changes] in part because it would have been unreasonable to pick out and implement parts of an inter-related complex package. Piecemeal implementation would only create greater confusion and could interfere with a thorough re-examination of the whole package.' But the National Housing Federation said it was disappointed and did not feel the reasons given justified the late decision. Warren Finney, policy officer at the federation, said the statement implied the government was going to re-examine the whole package and said two consultations on the same subject were not very efficient. It could also make housing benefit reform more difficult to implement, he added. Mark Lupton, policy analyst at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said everybody had welcomed the increased weightings for larger properties, which would have particularly benefited black and minority ethnic associations. ‘I don't see why they can't be implemented straight away and they should be,' he said. The announcement was made as part of a £3.37 billion housing revenue account determination for 2005/06.