22nd April 2018
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Tenants hit out over Hjaltland rent rise plan

Angry Hjaltland tenants have blasted a proposed rent increase, with one resident labelling it “beyond the joke” and questioning whether the organisation had lost sight of its charitable aims.

Renters have spoken out after the Hjaltland Housing Association notified residents of their intention to increase rent by four per cent. This follows a rent increase of three per cent last year, leaving some tenants struggling to cope with escalating prices.

With frustrations bubbling over one Hjaltland resident launched a Facebook page, attempting to mobilise tenants in opposition to the
rise. As of yesterday morning, the group had attracted just under 70 “likes”.

On the website of Scottish charity regulator Oscr, Hjaltland’s aim is said to be the “relief of those in need by reason of age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage”.

Hjaltland Housing Association chief executive Bryan Leask has defended the proposed rise.

Peter Mckay, who stays at Hjaltland’s Hill Grind scheme, said that he was driven to start the group because of the combination of repeated rent increases and stagnant wages.

He said: “I work with the council. I’ve no had a substantial payrise on anything in 10 years… they’re taking more than we can afford.”

Mr Mckay said that he had seen his rent increase three-and-a-half per cent last year and would struggle financially if a further four per cent increase was introduced this year. On Facebook others have shared stories similar to Mr Mckay.

One member, Vivien Hawes, wrote: “I love my house but I’m spending more than a third of my income on rent and working for the NHS I haven’t had a pay rise for 5 years.”

Another, Nicola Bowie, said: “I’m already paying out more for a Hjaltland two-bed house than my mum is for a council three-bed house.

“I’m a single working mum and don’t get any housing benefit help and my entire months wages and a bit more is spent on Hjaltland’s rent alone. If I didn’t receive working tax credits there is no way I’d be able to afford to live or work.”

Mr Mckay said that he felt that disgruntlement was now the dominant emotion among Hjaltland residents.

“If you were to chap a few Hjaltland doors I don’t think you’d find one person who’d say it was value for money.”

He added: “They never have a year where the rent stays the same, for a charitable organisation how can they justify that? They’re not taking in the fundamentals of what’s going on in the community.”

Neil Anderson, who lives at the housing association’s Gremmasgaet scheme, was another resident to approach The Shetland Times with concerns about the proposed increase.

He said: “They’re outpricing the single parent or even the working couple.”

Mr Anderson added: “They’re getting too big. They’re losing sight of what they originally set out to do which is to provide affordable housing.”

He said that many residents he had spoken to felt they were being priced out of the schemes and said that he would be applying for a council house if the rent increase was introduced.

Hjaltland chief executive Bryan Leask defended the proposed rise, however, saying that the housing association’s policy was to alter rent on a yearly basis. The increase is based on the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation, plus half a per cent.

Last year the “global” increase across all Hjaltland accommodation was three per cent, though some saw their rent increased by slightly less or more. This year’s figure, he stressed, was just a proposal and feedback from residents was taken on board.

“We are consulting with our residents and no decision has been made yet”, he said.

Mr Leask added: “Obviously we have great sympathy for people whose wages haven’t increased and we’re always looking at ways we can create efficiencies. But the reality is that’s what our costs have gone up by.”

The housing association also has to ensure that it has “set aside enough to do the repairs we have to do”, Mr Leask said.

Next week Hjaltland’s committee will decide on rent increases for the coming year and responses to a tenant survey were being compiled and the feedback would be relayed to the committee, he added.

 

About Keegan Murray

Reporter for The Shetland Times. Interested in politics, literature and music. Born and bred Shetlander. Long suffering Newcastle United supporter.

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3 comments

  1. David Spence

    It would be interesting to find out what Hjaltlands view is on Brex*hit, and whether or not they are in favour of it because they will benefit from the UK leaving the EU in 2019?

    I would also anticipate monies for new social housing will be drastically cut as more and more Local Authority (LA) services go to the private sector under the Tories privatisation agenda.

    This, again, Hjaltland would be in favour of, as not only will they get help from the government, their status will change to this of a private company, thus allowing them a free reign over what they charge.

    If you look at what ‘ private landlords ‘ are charging LA’s on the basis LA’s must accommodate whoever, even if there is a massive shortage of social housing, it is a good indication of the way housing will go under Brex*hit.

    Despite Shetland’s prosperity in regards to oil, I fear the long term outlook for Shetland will much worse under Brex*hit. SIC spending much more from the money from Sullom on LA services once those services are privatised, and our Charitable Trust spending its reserves on such services as well.

    Reply
  2. Alvin Leong

    Not sure what is the use of HHA, been on their waiting list (and SIC’s) for many years and got nowhere. Apparently, they are also in charge of the Scottish Open Market Shared Equity scheme, which allows people to buy an open market home at very affordable rates. However this was never mention or offered to me. In fact, they never had any contact with me other than the usual paperwork. After just over a year on OHAL waiting list, they called me into a meeting to offer me OMSE and now I am the proud owner of my first home instead of waiting 40 or more years to get anywhere with SIC and HHA.

    Reply
  3. Graham Pickering

    I am sure the rents are SUBSTANTIALLY lower than for a private let for similar size. Not sure how many private let properties exist but any adult on national minimum wage has got 4.4% of a rise.
    And let’s remember we are subsidising island life already.

    0.5% above inflation is not excessive. My energy company increased electricity by 14% and 2% the year before and this was even switching to the cheapest supplier!

    Reply

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