04 Feb 2020
In December, Welsh Government released their rent settlement for 2020 – 2025, which requires Registered Social Landlords throughout Wales to consider the following factors when setting rents:
• Affordability which considers the ‘cost of living’
• Value for money
• Annual assessment of cost efficiencies
We have gained feedback from tenants through the Together Panel and an online survey, and in line with the Welsh Government rent settlement requirements, we have also considered a broader range of factors when setting rents so we can balance the need for tenant affordability with the certainty of income to improve our services and build more affordable homes.
Soon, we will write to all our tenants to explain any changes in rent payment amounts for the 2020 / 21 financial year, but we wanted to explain what matters were raised in the tenant consultation and how decisions were made.
Some tenants suggested that using measures for affordability doesn’t sufficiently account for individual circumstances or variances in income. Some people also felt that the cost of other living factors should be considered, such as utilities and council tax.
As United Welsh provides over 6,000 homes, applying varying rents according to everyone’s individual circumstances would be complex and unaffordable to administer.
Also, household incomes can vary weekly due to increases or decreases in earned income or welfare benefits, so it would be difficult to respond to such changes as we often don’t know about them.
We decided to use the National Living Wage to assess affordability, as this is the minimum that anyone in employment will be earning. While tenants in receipt of benefits may be on less income, this is balanced by their rent being either in full, or in part, covered by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
Value for money
Feedback from tenants told us that well-maintained homes and good quality services were the main factors that demonstrated rent as providing value for money.
Services provided by our repairs subsidiary Celtic Horizons and changes to planned maintenance schedules were also raised as impacts on value for money.
In 2018/19, 90% of tenants expressed satisfaction with repairs at their home, but we know there is always room for improvement.
Last year, an independent strategic review of the services delivered by Celtic Horizons was undertaken and we are now working through the recommendations in that review.
We are also looking at our response to neighbourhood issues and anti-social behaviour with the aim of creating a more positive experience for tenants that we are working with to resolve matters in future.
For energy efficiency of United Welsh homes, our average SAP rating (this is the measure of energy performance) is 81.
This is the top in Wales, with the average for all housing associations being 72.5.
We have decided not to charge tenants in better performing homes higher rents so that tenants see the benefits of these efficiencies themselves.
We also recognise that the performance of some of our homes is below our average of 81. In line with our commitment to decarbonise homes over the coming years and make homes more affordable for tenants, we have a programme in place to improve energy efficiency across existing and new United Welsh homes.
We also continuously aim to improve the way we deliver planned maintenance, such as kitchen replacements and boiler upgrades. Last year, we completed over £3M worth of planned improvements, with 1,136 improvements carried out in total.
Get in touch
The way we set rent will evolve each year and in future, we would like to have a stronger tenant voice in the decision-making process. If you would be happy to get involved in future consultation, please do get in touch.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions about your rent, please contact the Income and Money Advice team: 0330 159 6080 (press 3) / firstname.lastname@example.org /online here