Hello, and welcome to my Chief Exec’s blog for March 2023.
This April, Southway rents will increase. In this blog, I’ll talk through how Southway has come to the decision to apply a rent increase in April 2023, what your rent pays for, and what we can do to help you if you’re struggling to pay.
Why are rents changing?
We, and all housing associations, set rents using Government guidance, which has seen them go up by slightly more than the rate of inflation for the last four years.
However, this year if we had followed inflation, rents would have increased by over 11%. Instead, Government has set a rent cap of 7%, which the Southway Board has also agreed to follow. The new rules will come into effect in April.
How has Southway come to this decision?
We always try to keep our rents as affordable as possible. But, like everyone else, we’re also having to manage the rising costs, including in maintaining and repairing homes and other neighbourhood and community services,
We know that, even though the rent is being set lower than inflation, it’s still difficult when the cost of living is increasing. But we do have to balance our rents with costs that are rising significantly more than 7% so that we can keep providing services.
What does my rent pay for?
We’re a not-for-profit landlord, so all the rent we receive is used to run our services, and to build and maintain homes. No shareholders benefit from rent increases.
Here are a few examples of the ways that you’ll see money being invested this year.
As well as completing major and minor repair work that you report to us, we’re continuously improving homes. This year, we will spend over £10 million on maintenance and improvements, which involves:
- Replacing and upgrading old kitchens and bathrooms, where needed
- Renewing heating systems with energy-efficient alternatives and improving insulation
- Investing in measures that increase the energy performance of homes, and that help to manage and reduce damp and mould.
These improvements will help people save money on bills in the long term and, importantly, also benefit the environment.
Community and Support Services
We invest over £1 million each year in our neighbourhoods to help reduce poverty and support people. We offer vital free money advice and financial support for those most in need. This means that your rent payments help others as well as yourself. We also invest in:
- Projects that address food and fuel poverty
- Getting tenants and their families into work
- Assisting people with complex needs and circumstances
- Investing in community hubs with other partners so that we can do more than we could on our own.
Affordable homes for more
As well as managing and maintaining our existing homes, we’re also building more affordable homes to help people in housing need and on the waiting list, including people who are homeless. Between 2020 and 2025, we will have built:
- 380 homes for social and affordable rent
- 295 shared ownership homes
We’re mid-way through plans to improve services that we know from your Inspired by Our Communities feedback are especially important to our tenants. These include improvements to our Repairs Service, Complaints, Damp and Mould process, and voids. We also want to improve our Tenancy Management Services, Customer Services, and customer access. Without a rent increase, we would have to significantly scale back or slow down these plans.
What do you need to do?
This week, you will have received a personalised letter with your new rent figure and answers to frequently asked questions about the increase.
You will need to start paying the new rent from April 2023.
The new charge is in place from 3rd April, but this is a rent-free week. So, unless you live in Tameside or Cheshire East (where your rent is spread evenly over 52 weeks), you will pay your rent from Monday 11th April.
If you pay by Direct Debit and/or Housing Benefit: these will be adjusted automatically to the new rent.
If you pay by standing order: you will need to adjust your payment yourself through your bank. Southway’s details are here.
If you pay by Universal Credit (UC): you need to report your rent increase to the Department of Work and Pensions through your online UC account on 3rd April or as soon as possible after BUT no later than the end of your monthly assessment period. Even if you get your Universal Credit paid directly to Southway, you will still need to report the increase.
Please remember to keep hold of your rent letter so that you have all the details you need in April.
Help with paying your rent
Paying your rent is a priority and a responsibility but, if you’re struggling to pay, please get in touch. If you tell us, we can help. We will always support you to maintain your tenancy and avoid falling into rent arrears.
Let us know straight away if you’re worried about paying your rent. Missing rent payments means you could risk losing your home and can lead to other problems like being unable to transfer or mutually exchange. It’s always best to let us know as soon as you think you will struggle to pay, so that we know and can help.
Our Income and Advice Teams can help you maximise your income, make the most of your money, and claim all the benefits you’re entitled to. They can also help with employment, training and budgeting skills, and access to support funds, vouchers and affordable food. You’ll find more advice, support and services listed on our Cost-of-Living Support Hub here.
Our Energy Buddies can give advice and install tools to help reduce your heating costs – on average, they save tenants over £250 per home each year.
If you have any other questions, please refer to the FAQs in your letter or visit southwayhousing.co.uk/rent-changes
I understand you might have views on this decision, and I always welcome your feedback. You can reply to this blog below, email ChiefExecsBlog@southwayhousing.co.uk or contact us in the usual ways.