CIVIC chiefs have rubber-stamped rent increases on 5,000 city council properties across the district. 

The rent will rise by 7.7 per cent, in line with inflation and rising building costs. 

The increase was unanimously approved by Winchester City Council on Thursday, February 22. 

Cllr Chris Westwood, cabinet member for housing, said: “We're in a period of high inflation and building costs have increased by 23 per cent in the last year. We have around 5,000 council homes in the Winchester district. Increasing rent is always a difficult decision. 

“The cost of living crisis has not gone away. This is a viable and sustainable business plan.”

The meeting heard that the council consulted Tenants and Council Together (TACT) about the proposals. TACT is a group of council tenants that civic chiefs meet regularly. 

Part of the city council's housing budget is to invest £30m in retrofitting homes over the next eight years to make them more energy-efficient. However, a recent housing committee meeting heard that only 850 of 1,585 households approached have accepted – meaning 735, or 46 per cent, have declined.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Council

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Cllr Westwood told the full council meeting that the issue people have with retrofitting is that they use lofts as storage space. He added that the council is offering alternative storage space to people, such as a garden shed. 

The budget also includes the sale of Barnes House in St Cross Road, which civic chiefs say is no longer fit for purpose as temporary accommodation. The city council has agreed in principle to try to sell the currently-empty house for £800,000 in 2024-25.

Cllr Jamie Scott, who is a council tenant, said: “We need to make sure we are talking and engaging with council tenants. We do have a decent home standard and we have a good rapport with tenants. 
“We should be really proud that we still have a substantial housing stock.”

Cllr John Tippett-Cooper said: "This is an absolute commitment to put tenants first. This council is sensitively supporting tenants, which is so important." 

Council leader Martin Tod said: “The provision of social housing is one of the most important things we do. I'm pleased to hear the support from across the chamber for this.”

Cllr Westwood said: “We have made significant progress this year. We have already built 127 new homes and upgraded 15 homes in the city.”

The housing budget was unanimously approved.