Council turfs out sitting tenants when it buys private properties in Milton Keynes

A council intends to close a perverse loophole where it has to kick families out of properties even when it buys homes to prevent private tenants from being made homeless.

The scourge of homelessness has skyrocketed in Milton Keynes over the last 12 months, with the number of applications to be considered homeless rising by 140 per cent to 3,436, according to a report to the borough council.

Milton Keynes Council

Milton Keynes Council

And the number of families in temporary accommodation has risen by 21 per cent to 781 households in just one year. Last year the council was given new duties to prevent homelessness.

Next week, Cllr Nigel Long, the MK Council cabinet member for housing and regeneration, intends to sign off a move next Tuesday (May 28) to plug the loophole and allow it to step in to buy homes where people are at risk of being made homeless.

It would allow the council to keep the sitting tenant in that home under a new tenancy arrangement, even if it allows the tenant to leapfrog up the housing waiting list.

Eleanor Nickless, the council’s head of homelessness prevention and housing access, and the head of neighbourhoods, Heledd Williams, say in their report to Cllr Long that they would offer at-risk tenants a new two-year flexible tenancy.

They said: “The council has set criteria for the acquisition of homes on the open market to ensure the acquisition represents value for money and is both affordable and viable.

“The current criteria include the need for the property to be provided with vacant possession. This is to avoid creating a secure tenancy with a hitherto private tenant outside of the normal allocations policy.

“Following this approach can result in the council buying a property from a landlord and placing the sitting tenant in temporary accommodation.

“The proposal seeks to allow the council to buy a property with a sitting tenant by enabling it to offer a two-year flexible tenancy.”

MK Council also has plans to create 500 new affordable homes by 2022 and add more to that list as time goes by. But that conveyor belt of new housing is a slow moving one and the council believes it has to act more quickly.

Against the backdrop of a homelessness problem that Cllr Long says is “huge and growing” and hitting a “horrendous number of families”, the council is on track to buy 50 properties by the end of July.

This will cost a total of £8 million, with another £350,000 needed to bring them up to standard. Cllr Long wants to add another 30 to that total from September but this will need further funding.

Cllr Long says the council will use its resources to buy properties where tenants are facing no-fault Section 21 evictions.

Cllr Long said: “Where private landlords want to sell their property and plan to evict sitting tenants we will be seeking to buy the properties and stop the household becoming homeless.

“This will remove the dreadful process of evictions and months in temporary accommodation for families. It will give families some security and stability.

“Preventing homelessness is really important. It will also reduce the cost to the council of placing families in temporary accommodation and help improve the standard of housing because often these properties are in need of investment having been neglected by their private landlords.”