Cheltenham's social housing set for significant revamp as part of new budget
SOCIAL housing in Cheltenham is set to be transformed by a major new investment plan.
Borough council bosses have agreed a budget which will see £4.5 million invested in existing housing stock in the town by March 2016, with almost £1.3m earmarked for solar panels and other green energy measures.
Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH), the organisation which runs council housing on the local authority's behalf, will also receive a £1 million payment to spend over the next three years.
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This will include £400,000 to be spent helping tenants navigate the predicted confusion caused by the Government's welfare reforms, and £300,000 enhancing services for vulnerable people.
However, it is not all good news, especially for existing tenants, who will face a 3.43 per cent rent increase as of April this year. This equates to a bill increase of almost £3 a week for many.
Councillor John Rawson (LD, St Peters), cabinet member for finance, described the plans which have been agreed for 2013/14 and beyond as "very positive".
He said: "The budget for the year ahead includes substantial investment in repairs and maintenance, energy saving measures and adaptations for disabled people. But it also does more than this. It recognises that housing is not just about bricks and mortar, it is also about the security and wellbeing of the tenants."
Mr Rawson has acknowledged that the Government's welfare reforms are likely to have a significant impact in Cheltenham, stating that some tenants may "even find themselves at risk of homelessness" because of the shake up.
CBH's response is to offer more advice and support for people struggling to cope with the results of the changes being made to the disability living allowance and the introduction of the so called 'bedroom tax', which is designed to tackle under occupation of social housing.
CBH will also look to encourage tenants to take up simple bank accounts to help stay on top of their finances.
Steve Slater, finance director at CBH, said: "The additional resources provided in this budget will help us to support our customers through these changes."