A £2.274 million increase in the cost of putting hundreds more families in temporary accommodation is set to bust the council’s budget by the end of this financial year.
Milton Keynes Council says there has been an “unforseen trend” in an average of 210 more families being in temporary accommodation every week than they were expecting.
When setting its budget earlier this year, the council anticipated that 670 families would be in temporary accommodation every week. That figure has worked out to be 880 families every week as the supply of affordable housing dries up.
Papers presented to Tuesday’s meeting of the ruling Cabinet say an extra 40 households per month have been needing help, at a cost of £28 per night.
“The ongoing homelessness pressure is based on landlords ending tenancies due to higher rent prospects as well as friends and families no longer able to accommodate adult children.”
The council is trying to stem the flow by employing more homeless prevention officers, by getting more lower cost housing, and by making its own empty houses available faster.
The council is planning to use an extra £6.2 million from its separate capital fund to buy 31 houses which they hope will help.
Cllr Rob Middleton (Lab, Wolverton), the cabinet member for resources and innovation, said overall the council is forecast to overspend its budget by £500,000. Council departments are forecast to make savings.
“We are in a position which is unfortunate but nevertheless manageable,” said Cllr Middleton. “At this moment in time we are forecasting a general fund overspend of around half a million pounds, this is despite there being underspends in a number of large areas including adults and childrens.
“The main reason we are facing the overspend is because of the temporary accommodation costs. It is a symptom of the housing crisis which is afflicting this country but is in particular affecting fast growing in the south east such as Milton Keynes.”
Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) pointed out that there were no Conservative councillors in the chamber when financial matters were being discussed.
He added: “Though there is an estimated overspend on homelessness we are in a position to deal with that because we have prudent finances. It yet again proves the benefit of good, transparent financial management,” he said.
Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), the council’s housing chief, said a £2.3 million overspend is incredibly serious.
“The private rented sector is not providing affordable housing and clearly we’ve got to get our heads around that,” said Cllr Long. “What we need is to be able to build more genuinely affordable housing.”
And Cllr Marland said the problems in Milton Keynes indicate that there are “greedy landlords who are turfing people out of their houses and then wanting more money in rent.
“It won’t be fine until we have a government that is willing to clamp down and actually put tenancy rights in place. I think we sometimes give the wrong impression that it’s just a supply issue when it isn’t. It’s as much about clamping down on bad practice.
“That’s why we are going to set up our own housing company to challenge that market.”