WORKERS in the New Forest could be priced out of their homes next year if the landlord goes ahead with plans to hike the rent by 40 per cent, their union Unite warned yesterday.
The 25 workers, who earn around £21,000 a year, face a whopping rent rise of 40 per cent in January followed by another 40 per cent hike in 2019 under plans by the Forestry Commission.
The commission, which rents about 60 homes in the forest, currently charges levels similar to council house rents.
Unite regional officer Richard White said: “Unfortunately, we have not been able, so far, to change the commission’s mind and these draconian rent rises are set to go ahead in the new year.
“These workers — some of whom are retired — are on modest incomes and won’t be able to afford these increases, so will be forced to give up their homes and seek accommodation elsewhere.
“This is a travesty as these employees, with many years of dedicated service to the preservation of the New Forest, are part of the DNA of these ancient woodlands.”
Union representative George Whitacher, who has lived in a commission cottage for 31 years, warned that it’s not only workers who will suffer from the rent rises but the forest itself.
Speaking last year when the rent review was announced, the craftsman said: “You can’t keep forest life going if you can’t stay in the forest. It would totally change — there would be no forest life.”
The union is due to meet the Forestry Commission surveyors on Friday to put forward the case for “a sensible and compassionate approach” to rent rises.
The Forestry Commission was “not available” for comment when the Star contacted it.