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Aberdeen City Council housing budget proposals approved

18/12/13

Budget proposals for the 2014/15 Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and the Housing Capital Account were approved by Aberdeen Councillors today.

This enables the setting of the rent level for 2014/15, provisional rent levels for financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17, and in turn the setting of a capital programme for 2014/15 and provisional programmes for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

In line with previous years, the council sought the views of its tenants as to whether maintaining the rent policy at inflation plus 1% was still appropriate.

Of the tenants who responded, 73% agreed with the continuation of the policy and 27% disagreed.

Based on latest figures, inflation plus 1% would mean a rent increase of 4.2% for 2014/15. However, it was agreed that during the current economic climate many families would struggle with such an increase.

Work carried out by officers, based on the Bank of England forecast of inflation, suggested that this level of increase over the period would be significantly above the council's requirements to maintain the housing revenue account business plan.

It was therefore agreed that a rent increase of 3.5% per week be set for this financial year, which should be maintained over the next two financial years, subject to inflation remaining lower.

It was also agreed that a heating charge increase for the council's heat with rent properties will be phased in as follows: 1.50 per week for bedsits; 2.00 per week for one bedroomed dwellings; 2.50 per week for two bedroomed dwellings; 3.00 per week for three bedroomed dwellings.

To ensure that the council can deliver the priorities for its housing stock and tenants it was agreed that the budget includes a revenue contribution to the Housing Capital programme for 2014/15 of 22million.

This combined with additional borrowing means that the level of capital investment will be 41.7million for 2014/15.

Addressing the Council Chamber today, Housing and Environment Convener Councillor Neil Cooney said the Council will continue to make significant investment in its housing stock in the coming financial year.

Some 1,300 homes are set to receive high efficiency gas heating systems, 11 multi-storey blocks will be connected to the Combined Heat and Power Scheme and 1,400 kitchens and 1,000 bathrooms will be modernised.

There will also be window replacement work in 97 blocks of flats, 110 homes will be rewired and 300 houses will have security improved.

Cllr Cooney commended the Council's homelessness service saying there has been a dramatic reduction on the reliance of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless applicants.

He added that the Victoria House homelessness facility, due for completion in 2014, will further enhance the homelessness service.

Cllr Cooney said: "We have agreed upon a robust and comprehensive plan for our housing service, which is designed to raise the standards of our stock through modernisation and meet the expectations and aspirations of residents.

"The demand for housing in the city continues to outstrip supply and this can create a heartbreaking scenario, particularly for young families.

"We as a Council continue to seek ways to enhance the availability of housing in the city and have already outlined a bold and ambitious target for new affordable housing in our strategic infrastructure plan."

Cllr Cooney added: "Best value lies in value for the citizens of Aberdeen and our citizens deserve the best we can provide within the bounds of affordability.

"This is not simply a question of meeting needs and balancing budgets, it is about respect, dignity and social inclusion. This budget is certainly an important step in achieving that and it sets the tone for a smarter future for all."