In a bid to meet the Government’s national Decent Homes 2010 standard to provide better homes and services for local residents, the London Borough of Merton is looking at different ways to manage and maintain its housing stock.
Under the current arrangements, the council has to repay the Government a percentage of the rent it collects from tenants every year. As the remaining amount does not cover the total cost of maintaining council housing, Merton’s housing stock is increasingly falling into an unsatisfactory state, reflecting chronic under investment. Merton is therefore considering transferring its housing stock to a Registered Social Landlord (RSL). Such a transfer would increase the investment to council properties as RSLs are allowed to retain all rental and sales incomes to fund service improvements and investments in their properties. Additionally, RSLs are allowed to borrow in the open market in order to provide an increased level of investment in existing properties.
RSLs are also subject to the same rent structure so the amount tenants are charged would be the same as what they pay as a council tenant. If the council decide in the next few months that a transfer is the most likely option to improve services, tenants and leaseholders will be consulted and asked to vote. A transfer can only take place if the majority are not opposed.
Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Diane Neil Mills, said:
“We are in a difficult budget position in that we do not have enough money to cover the cost of keeping our housing stock up to the standard that we feel our tenants deserve. Our council tenants have the right to live in well-maintained homes, in which both the tenants and the council take pride. Moving the council homes over to a Registered Social Landlord is one possible solution to bring about a significant improvement in the quality of the housing service that we provide.”