Social housing tenants living in ‘freezing’ conditions since flammable cladding came off their blocks have called a hike in their rent a ‘scandal’.
The nine blocks of flats, which are owned by Salford council but managed by Pendleton Together, have been plagued with problems for years.
All nine apartment blocks finally had their flammable cladding removed by the end of 2020 – some three years after the lethal Grenfell Tower fire in London.
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But while the work to replace the insulating cladding continues – with the end date still two years away – temperatures at the apartments have plummeted.
The housing association has offered tenants £30 a month to help with heating bills but some have said their energy costs have been up to ten times higher.
Now, the Pendleton Together tenants have been hit by a 4.1 per cent rise in rent after the council’s cabinet approved the increase in a meeting on Tuesday (February 8).
Councilors have five days to ‘call in’ the decision if they are unhappy with it.
A hardship fund to support households facing financial difficulties will also be set up, using £216,000 of additional income – however it’s not currently clear to what extent it will mitigate the increase in rent.
The city’s deputy major, Councilor John Merry, has said the council is still ‘working through details’ of the fund and how it will work.
Robert Vaudrey, who lives with his wife and daughter in Holm Court, has said that the increase ‘will mean losing the annual family holiday’.
“My wife, she’s really upset about it all. She’s worried it’s really going to be biting into our budget,” he said.
The family has previously told the Manchester Evening news that they’re having to put in £40 a week in the electricity since the cladding was removed from their block.
Robert said: “I don’t know how they can justify asking for it to be honest.
“It’s only £40 a month more, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but over a year it’s a lot of money to find.”
Robert has said that the increase in rent is a ‘scandal’.
However, for him, it’s not all about the price of rent, it’s the conditions his young daughter has to live in.
“It’s not all about the money, I’ve got a four-year-old,” he said.
As a single-income family, the Vaudreys get some help paying their rent.
But Robert says he doesn’t know where this increase will leave them.
“We have to manage, there’s no rainy day money. It’s all going on heating. It’s an impossible situation. I’m still processing the information.
“We will have to manage, we’d have to make some cut backs, more than we already have.
“It will mean losing the annual family holiday, which is only in England, four days a year in the summer. My daughter obviously likes the experience.”
Eithne Crowson, who also lives in Holm Court, with her husband Martin, said: “I don’t pay all my rent but I do pay part of it. Whatever I pay it will still be hard.”
Councilor Robin Garrido has said that Salford City Council have ‘a nerve’ to increase the rents and that the opposite should be happening.
He told the MEN: “There should not be an increase, there should actually be a decrease.”
“I think they have a nerve to expect them to pay an increase in rent when they live in a dis-satisfactory premises,” he added.
“We’re talking about elderly people here and people not in good health. The flats are not up to standard. The heating costs have gone through the roof. And they’re expecting them to pay an increase in rent. I think they have an absolute nerve.”
“I’m really annoyed about it,” he added.
Cllr Garrido said that he will be contacting the city major to ask him to delay bringing in the increase in rent.
The annual increase, calculated according to inflation in September, ranges from £173.16 for one-bedroom flats to £243.36 for four-bedroom houses.
Of the 1,212 properties which are part of the PFI contract, 553 receive either full or partial housing benefit and 378 are on Universal Credit for housing.
A hardship fund will be available to the remaining 23 per cent of households which are not currently in receipt of these benefits and will be affected by the rise.
Service charges for the Pendleton Together properties are also set to rise by 3.8 per cent for homes in high-rise blocks and 7.71 per cent for flats in low-rise buildings.
Councillor John Merry, Deputy City Mayor and Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing, at Salford City Council said: “Millions of people across the country are facing a rise in the costs of living and it is quickly becoming a national crisis, which will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.
“To support residents in the nine council-owned Pendleton blocks we are working through details to provide an Extreme Hardship Fund. How this will work is yet to be confirmed as we analyze what the government announced [on Thursday, February 3] and the impact this will have on local people.
“But we are considering options such as emergency food parcels, extra support with energy bills and wellbeing necessities. As soon as full details of the Extreme Hardship Fund are confirmed residents will be informed.
“This new fund will complement the existing schemes that are available to all residents in the city and not replace them. Approximately nearly 80 per cent of residents are already receiving some form of rent support. There is a Household Support Fund that is open now for people who are struggling financially.”
More details on the Household Support Fund can be found here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.