Investment in housing is desperately needed, Kirklees’ housing boss says.
Affordable homes, council houses and homes for an ageing population are all needed in Kirklees to prevent a crisis, says Dave Harris, Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) chairman.
He spoke of the future as Cabinet members received a report on KNH performance over the last year.
Statistics showed they collected 99.95% of the £80.3m rent owed - more than expected due to recent welfare changes.
Mr Harris said: “I think we all forget just how important council houses still are. We’ve still got 23,000 council houses, they’re a huge resource and the only place that people can have affordable, secure tenancies, you don’t get that in the private rented sector.
“If we look to the future over the next 12 months if Universal Credit (a single, monthly benefit paid directly to the recipient who then has to pay rent etc) does come in, and God help us if it does, we’re going to have some real issues in collecting rents.
“There are going to be a lot of other issues that people are going to be facing - people destitute and sanctioned at the job centre, they turn up at the council with no money to buy food that day. It’s outrageous but it’s there and we have to try and deal with that.
“There is a housing crisis in the country... the demand for council housing and the demand for affordable housing is only going to rise.”
He said there was money to invest and over the next 12 months they had to look at how best to use it.
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for investment and regeneration, said: “It’s worth bearing in mind the backdrop to this report is the welfare cuts on a massive scale, not withstanding that, the debt management has been particularly well handled - 99.05% has been collected which is really an achievement in the circumstances.
“With the ‘bedroom tax’ we expected - in fact we were being prepared for - a much worse situation than what we’ve ultimately faced.
“It doesn’t reflect the fact that it wasn’t as bad, but reflected in the fact it was well managed in the first place.”
Clr McBride praised the Tenant and Resident Associations who go over and above their role to help the communities and added: “I’m often critical of KNH, just to keep them on their toes particularly... it’s not 100% but it’s a very good 90% plus.”
KNH let 2,686 homes and improved 3,300 homes with new kitchens, bathrooms, heating, rewiring or new roofs.
Rent arrears stand at £1.7m, but arrears from previous years worth £357,507 was collected in 2013/14.