Tumbling inflation during the pandemic is set to see a lower than usual rise in Angus Council house rents.
Housing chiefs are recommending a 2% rise for 2021/22 in a plan going before communities councillors on Tuesday.
It would take the average weekly Angus council house rent to £72.28.
The proposal follows the pattern of a Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1% increase which councillors have applied in recent years.
But with the inflation rate remaining low, it means the planned hike based on the July 2020 CPI figure is behind the 3.1% increase of last year and rises of 3.5% in 2019 and 4% in 2018.
Inflation plunged last year as the early stages of the pandemic sent the oil price crashing and cut the cost of items such as clothing and secondhand cars.
Housing service leader John Morrow’s report states: “The importance of having safe and secure affordable homes that meet current needs has been brought into sharp focus in the last year by the Covid-19 emergency.
“We have all spent much longer periods in our homes than usual, so the improvements to our homes delivered through our capital programmes in recent years have helped mitigate some of the negative aspects.
“Unfortunately however, as a result of the pandemic, some tenants have experienced a significant drop in household income due to reduced working hours or loss of employment.
“It is more important than ever for us to direct our efforts in the coming years to improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock to meet zero carbon targets, not only so that we can help mitigate climate change, but also so that we can reduce fuel bills and combat fuel poverty.”
Angus rents will remain among lowest in Scotland
“This means that a balance has to be struck between maintaining rents at an affordable level, whilst also being able to continue significant investment in stock improvements and continue increasing new supply housing.
“Angus Council rents are still amongst the very lowest in Scotland, whilst our customer satisfaction ratings are above the Scottish average for all aspects of our services and our homes.
“Nevertheless, the pandemic has impacted on the housing revenue account in 2020/21 in a number of ways.”
Just 3% of council tenants – 225 residents – responded to a rent consultation, with 53% of those favouring the 2% increase.
The same rise is planned for council garages and the district’s only travellers site at Tayock outside Montrose.
Housing stock upgrades hit by Covid-19 crisis
Mr Morrow’s report also reveals the coronavirus crisis impact on a multi-million pound kitchen and bathroom replacement programme.
Almost 600 new kitchens were due to be completed by the end of this year, with 700 bathroom upgrades in the first phase of a two-year contract which runs to June.
Both have been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, along with new-build projects affected by the construction industry shutdown between March and July last year.
“Good progress has been made since construction restarted, albeit some challenges for the sector remain in terms of physically distancing and supply chains,” said Mr Morrow.
“This year the council will deliver around 62 new social rented homes and a small number of open market purchases.
“Construction activity has a significant impact on the local economy and every £1 spent can generate £2.84 in indirect and direct economic stimulus,” his report adds.
Angus officials forecast a £295 million economic boost to the area from the housing capital plan in the next five years, including a spin-off benefit of at least a dozen apprenticeship places.