News Sheffield tenants face rent rise under ‘two tier’ system

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NEW tenants in council homes across Sheffield could pay £3.74 a week extra from next year under proposals out to consultation.

The council is asking people what they think about letting empty homes at a target rent - which is the same level as housing association rents - from January.

The move would not affect current tenants staying put in their properties, as their rent gradually increases year on year until it meets the target, which is expected to be in 2015-16.

But the council says charging new tenants, and those who move to another council home, more from next year could bring in £750,000.

Opposition councillors said the council was creating a ‘two tier’ system.

Coun Penny Baker, shadow cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “Many tenants are worried about Labour’s planned rent increase – I know lots of residents who are no longer wanting to move as a result of this policy.”

But the change would affect only a ‘small percentage’ of people, said Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods.

He added: “Only tenants moving home would pay the higher level of rent, the vast majority would not be affected at all.

“But importantly we have made it clear that, if the majority of tenants say no, we will not go ahead.”

The Government is trying to reduce the difference between council and housing association rents.

Councils have been told they can rent homes that become empty at the target rent now, rather than have to wait until 2015/16.

Current tenants in Sheffield, and people who want to live in council homes, are being asked to give their views about the proposal.

A questionnaire is available online at www.sheffield.gov.uk and from housing offices.

Drop-in sessions have also been organised, including one taking place today from 11.30am to 1.30pm at Property Shop, Union Street, in Sheffield city centre.