Private sector tenants who are at risk of being made homeless by their landlords could be saved from the fate by Milton Keynes Council buying their homes.
The council’s housing supremo, Cllr Nigel Long, has decided to adopt a new type of tenancy which can be used when the authority buys private properties on the open market.
Cllr Long made the decision to introduce flexible two year tenancies, at a delegated decisions meeting yesterday (Tuesday).
Previously, if a tenant was occupying a property brought by the council they would have to move out and be put into temporary accommodation. Now, the new tenancy will allow them to stay in the home for two years, to allow them to look for a new place to rent, or to apply to become a council tenant.
Cllr Long said the council would “take up a clear position” of buying homes which had been put on to the market with tenants who were in “danger of becoming homeless” through no fault of their own.
Cllr Long added: “The really bad issue is not just eviction but a lack of truly affordable housing.”
The council plans is to build more houses but the process of doing that is so grindingly slow, that to get more homes into its stock it buys homes on the property market. It is on track to buy 50 properties by the end of July at a total cost of £8million, with another £350,000 spent to bring them up to standard.
Cllr Long said the problem of homelessness and lack of affordable housing in the city is huge. He said there are currently 786 familes and rising in temporary accommodation in Milton Keynes. And the number of applications to be considered homeless has risen by 140 per cent to 3,436 over the last year.
The council says the main issue driving up homelessness is a rise in so-called no-fault evictions by landlords.
Cllr John Bint, who is himself a landlord, welcomed moves to tackle homelessness but queried whether the council would be accepting tenants who were in rent arrears.
“Most people being evicted under section 21 would be in arrears,” he said. “They may be so deep in arrears that the landlord has to sell the property.”
But Ellie Nickless, the council’s head of homelessness prevention and housing access, said the main reason for section 21 evictions was landlords wanting to sell, rather than tenants being in arrears.
Cllr Allan Rankine questioned whether spending an average of £167,000 per house was “using a hammer to crack an egg” when the government has said it intends to ban section 21 evictions.
But Michael Kelleher, the council’s housing and regeneration director, said it was just one of the options in the council’s arsenal which could be used to tackle homelessness.
“In some parts of the borough it is cheaper to buy than to build,” he said.