Spending £400,000 more on buying houses in Milton Keynes ‘still makes sense’ says council chief

Councillor Nigel Long
Councillor Nigel Long

A council will be injecting £400,000 more than originally intended into just one of the efforts it is making to get to grips with “horrendous” homelessness problem in Milton Keynes.

Last Friday MK Council was housing 864 families in temporary accommodation, which is only part of the problem as it does not count people who are sofa-surfing with friends and family.

The rising levels of homelessness in the city are believed to be driven in part by landlords using so-called no-fault evictions against their tenants, and by families breaking up.

“There is a horrendous problem of homelessness in Milton Keynes,” said Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), the council’s cabinet member for housing at a meeting on Tuesday (Sept 24).
“There were 864 families in temporary accommodation on Friday, which is putting the council under financial pressure.”

Now the council is reviving a scheme where it will help a locally based housing association to buy 20 properties, which it can then use to house people in need.

But, the Central MK-based 3CHA housing association, has not, until recently, been able to secure the necessary funding. And now, the council says, the housing association needs support to pay for 30 per cent of the cost of buying homes, instead of the previous 20 per cent.

That 10 per cent difference, and increases in house prices since 2017, has added a whopping £443,000 to the originally planned £800,000.

But Cllr Long and his officers are confident that the total investment of £4million from the council and the housing association still makes sense.

The rising costs of putting families in temporary accommodation has risen to around £2.5million more than planned and risks blowing a hole in the council’s budget.
“We need to deal with the fact that we have a large overspend,” said Cllr Long at Tuesday’s Delegated Decisions meeting. “There is an element of risk involved in the decision but I think it is a sound one.”

The money will be found from cash the council gets under the tenants’ right to buy their homes. It might also normally have to go to the Government, background papers revealed. The money can be recovered at the end of the agreement with 3CHA, council officers say.

The plan is for 3CHA to buy the 20 homes before February 14, 2020, and to lease them to the council by May.