Residents battling to pay the bills in a Salford Council housing complex say a proposed 4.1 percent rent increase would be ‘devastating’ to them. Tenants in the Pendleton Together-managed flats have faced numerous issues with their apartments over the years.
People living in the Pendleton flats say they have to spend hundreds on energy – due to a combination of dangerous cladding being removed in the wake of the Grenfell disaster and a heating system which relies on insulation to keep warm. The NIBE heaters use vents to the exterior of the building to draw fresh air in, which is then warmed up and circulated.
However, when the outside temperature drops below 16C, the system goes to ‘electric-only mode’, which residents say, in effect, means they have to run an immersion heater ’24 hours a day ‘- leading to sky-high bills for some of Salford’s poorest residents.
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Now, after a meeting between the residents and city mayor Paul Dennett, the proposed rent increase has been suspended, after being ‘called in’ by Coun Robin Garrido. But many fear that it will be pushed through after the council elections on May 5.
“[Increasing rent] would have a devastating effect, ”Eithne Crawson told the Manchester Evening News. “It’s hard at the moment with everything else going up. We have to put that much money in the meter to get some heat… we have to feed ourselves, it’s just non-existent. ”
Normally, the 69-year-old, who lives in Holm Court with husband Martin, an army veteran, has to put £ 100 into her meter to pay for energy. With the latest rise in the cost of living, Eithne says this figure is now ‘£ 40 or £ 50 a week’.
Eithne and Martin are not the only retirees who have to make their pension stretch to meet eye-watering demands. Eddie Murray, who has lived in Whitebeam Court for 26 years, is also worried about the potential rise.
“It would have a large impact. I’m only on a pension, so it would come out of that, ”he said, before arguing that he did not have value for money from his time in Pendleton. “Why are we paying more rent when we are living like it’s back in the 80s? How can you pay more and get less?
The 66-year-old added: “People are living inside building sites. It’s like a wasteland. When they first said they would regenerate [the area], I thought it would be fantastic. I thought by the time I retire, I would be in a state I like. It’s a shambles. ”
Such is tightness in Eddie’s finances, he does not switch on his NIBE system at all, instead using halogen heaters and electric showers to keep warm. In the end, it means he can bring his bills down to £ 30, but it means he is still cold.
One family with a second income is the Vaudreys, who live in Holm Court. Dad Rob stays at home with his four-year-old daughter April, while his wife Pamela works 15 hours a week as a sales assistant in a blinds shop.
Pamela can not work any more than that, however, as the extra earnings will come out of their Universal Credit. It means the family can use their benefits to ‘pay the bills’, but only have Pamela’s £ 500 in monthly earnings to live on.
“With all the increases, we are on £ 20 a day. That for electric, everything, ”Rob explains. “£ 20 for the meter means we have no money for tea or coffee or milk, nothing.
“We are putting £ 40 a week [for heating]. If it was to up four percent for us, on a limited income, we are looking at £ 300 or £ 400 extra per year. It is not good. That’s our holiday. ”
A spokesperson for Salford City Council said residents were sent a letter confirming that their rent will not be rising in April.
“It was a courtesy note to let residents know how they needed to answer that question given that the rent increase is on hold,” the council said.
“Most landlords put their rents up at the beginning of April and so it’s a standard question that UC claimants will be asked by DWP. Different arrangements apply for residents who get rent support through Housing Benefit. It does not mean that UC claimants are exempt from a rent increase. “