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CHARM, target rents, and the Pensions Board

12 September 2014


From Bernadette Kenny

Sir, - The reference to "overcharging" in your headline, with reference to the CHARM scheme (News, 5 September), is wholly inappropriate. This implies, first, that there is an absolute, correct rent for a property; and, second, that we are keeping money that rightly belongs to our tenants. Neither is true.

We are moving from one rent system to another, changing rents each year. At every stage, tenants will be paying the rent that is due.

We also dispute some of the figures in your article. That said, it is true that some decreasing rents will not reach target rent-level for many years. But moving these tenants on to target rents immediately would, as we explained in our consultation document, cost sums that the Church simply could not afford.

Three-quarters of those who responded to our consultation agreed that target rent was better than rent based on income. Where people expressed concerns about current tenants, their concerns were about those on lower incomes who would face rising rents, or those who will suffer a loss of income in future, not those on higher incomes whose rents would go down.

Chief Executive of the Church of England Pensions Board
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, - I have had a very helpful letter from the Church of England Pensions Board. It explains the Board's thinking behind the new CHARM scheme. They say the rental income from tenants of £5.9 million in 2013 is not nearly sufficient to cover the costs of the scheme. In that year, their charitable funds contributed a further £2.5 million, and the wider Church (via Vote 5 at General Synod) paid £3.8 million, to make up the difference.

This funding means that, although some of the current tenants will have to pay higher rents in real terms in the future, we are able to keep rents much lower than market rents. On average, target rent is around 60 per cent of the rent on the open market. The fact remains that 418 tenants who have had the misfortune to have retired into an area of the UK where housing values are escalating are being forced to pay higher rents so the Pensions Board can reduce the 422 extortionately high rents they are charging in cheaper areas.

How can I possibly ask to be relieved of an increase in rent of £60 a year, when I know that my colleagues will be suffering unfair rents, reducing by £60 a year, until well into their 90s?

Whether our rents are going up or down, we are all very blessed to be housed by the Church of England in our retirement.

But a point has been missed by the board and the General Synod. Their problem is a chaotic national housing market. Forcing 418 of us to adapt to chaos, without challenging the extreme free-market ideology that lets it happen, is also to forget the people of the UK outside the Church. A Church should protest, and try to be better than a clone of unjust national policies.

Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF

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