Council house rents in Adur will go up for the first time in five years from April.
Since 2016/17, all councils have been under instructions from the government to cut rents by 1 per cent per year, which has reduced income by around £1.9m.
Now they are free to increase them again and the average rent bill will rise by £2.42 per week.
At a meeting of the executive, Sarah Gobey, chief financial officer, told members the past few years had been ‘extremely difficult’ for the council’s Housing Revenue Account – the account used to collect rent and pay for maintenance and new homes – which was running at a deficit of £725,000.
She added: “What we’re proposing is to increase the rents for the first time in five years by the maximum amount.
“This will reduce the deficit and put us in a stronger position going forward so that we can meet the challenge of needing to invest in our council properties to a good standard and hopefully also develop new properties for our future generations.”
While the coming financial year will still see the account running £527,000 short, Ms Gobey said rent increases should put it back on track by 2022/23.
Looking at the c2,500 homes owned by the council, Brian Boggis (Con, Peverel) questioned how well space was used on some of the estates.
Citing the Millfield area, he said less than half was made up of housing with the rest taken up with ‘derelict space, clothes hanging lines, areas with derelict cars on, shed doors falling off’.
Mr Boggis suggested redevelopment could be an option.
He said: “If we’re looking at just repairing and putting new windows in, we’re still not actually maximising the benefits we could obtain from the space that exists on these 1950s or 60s developments.
“Is there no alternative way that we can look at this?
“I know it means problems with decanting people for a period while the development takes place but it seems that we’re throwing good money after bad and still not providing the proper homes for people that desperately need them within the district.”
Akin Akinyebo, head of housing, said Mr Boggis’ comments would be considered as part of the ongoing work on the new housing development strategy and capital improvement programme.
The executive also agreed recommendations that the rent on council garages should rise from £10.29 per week to £10.57 per week.
Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service