Council's scrapping of successful private landlords scheme could risk escalation of homelessness in Milton Keynes, say Tory councillors

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A successful scheme that encouraged private landlords to hand over their properties to homeless and needy families has been scrapped by MK Council.

The Secure Lets scheme was launched in 2017 to address the problem of the vast majority of landlords in MK refusing to take tenants who are on benefits.

It encouraged landlords to sign their house or flat directly over to the council for a fixed term and guaranteed fixed monthly rent slightly higher than Housing Benefit or Universal Credit would pay.

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MK Council then put the tenant of their choice in the property – and became responsible for all repairs and maintenance.

Homelessness could rise now the Secure Lets scheme has been scrapped, say Conservative councillorsHomelessness could rise now the Secure Lets scheme has been scrapped, say Conservative councillors
Homelessness could rise now the Secure Lets scheme has been scrapped, say Conservative councillors

They pledged to pay the monthly rent even if the property was unoccupied and also pledged to return it in good condition at the end of tenancy.

In return, the landlord had to ensure the property met high standards, including fire and safety standards, before it became part of the Secure Lets scheme.

Dozens of landlords signed up for the scheme and praised it.

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"It worked really well,” said one landlord. “I would never normally consider letting my flat to a homeless or unemployed person, simply because navigating the benefit system is so difficult and I could lose money.

"But this way, I was guaranteed the rent and I knew my property would be well looked after. And I felt I was doing something constructive to help homeless people.”

Now all Secure Lets landlords have been told the scheme has ceased and their properties are being handed back at the end of the contract.

Instead they are being encouraged to take tenants in need on an assured shorthold tenancy. The council will offer a cash incentive and pay the tenant’s deposit – but it is up to the landlord to negotiate the benefits system.

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One landlord said: “I can’t take the risk. Universal Credit is such a nightmare to deal with. I’m letting my house out privately again to people who are working.”

Local Conservative group leader Cllr Alex Walker has blasted the scrapping Secure Lets, saying it could increase homelessness in MK.

He told the Citizen: “The council’s decision to scrap the Secure Lets Scheme shows they’re more interested in ideological fights with private landlords than helping vulnerable families move into safe and secure housing.

“The scheme has been working well, showing the importance of the public and private sector working together. There is no question at all scrapping it risks increasing the amount of homelessness in MK.

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Cllr Walker added: “We warned the Lib Dem/Labour leadership earlier this year, they haven’t listened and they will end up pushing people out of their current homes and put even more pressure on the council’s housing list.

“We would reverse this decision if we take control of MK Council because we’re committed to reducing homelessness across the city using every lever available.”

An MK Council spokesman said: “We’re encouraging landlords to join our new assured shorthold tenancies scheme – a tenancy of six months or longer – to support people in need of housing.

"The schemes gives people longer tenancies with added security while they consider their long-term options. Landlords will receive rent in advance as well as a deposit. We’ll also be introducing a rent guarantee to ensure landlords are never left out of pocket.”