Public sector rents will increase again from April 2014, but by not more than 5 per cent it was confirmed in Tynwald this week.
Responding to a question from Douglas North MHK John Houghton, Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw added historically the annual rent increases had been very low.
But planned investment in public sector housing meant such low rents were not sustainable in the future.
‘As a consequence, when I took office rents were increased that first year by 10 per cent,’ he said.
‘But it was equally clear that in setting out to acieve an acceptable level of sustainability there would be a requirement to introduce a system of means testing which among other things would help to recognise the circumstances of those tenants who are on low incomes but outside the benefits system.’
The target date for introduction of means testing will be April 2015.
He reminded MHKs the point-scoring system for public sector housing had been updated and was introduced in April, to allow changes to ‘bed in’ well and avoid any confusion before means testing was introduced.
The revised points system updated the rent calculation system which was largely unchanged for more than 20 years and did not take account of new properties, improved modern designs, layout, thermal efficiency and the modern amenities provided in newer public sector homes.
But he said the combined effect of rent increases plus the point system changes had been an average rent increase of 23 per cent over the period.
‘This has raised rents from an unacceptably low starting point but caution is now required in the priod prior to the introduction of means testing if we are to avoid an unacceptble impact on those tenants on low incomes but outside the benefits system,’ he said.
Earlier this week Onchan Commissioners called for public sector accommodation rents to be frozen.