Sudden rise in homeless people in Milton Keynes is ‘shocking’, say experts

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A sharp increase in the number of homelessness interviews has been described as “very unwelcome” by Milton Keynes Council.

The number of people presenting at the councillor homeless interviews jumped by 50 per cent in just one week.

There were also 79 families living in bed and breakfast accommodation at the taxpayers’ expense – a 27 per cent increase as compared to the two weeks prior.

There were 57 families staying in B&B in the final two weeks of December 2013.

Councillor Hannah O’Neill, cabinet member responsible for housing, blamed rising house prices.

She said: “Changes in house prices and interest rates could directly and indirectly lead to increases in numbers of households made homeless as private landlords seek to sell on their properties in an improving market.

“It will continue to be a council priority to prevent homelessness where we can and increase the quality and quantity of housing we can offer to those households who do become homeless.”

Larger families facing eviction from their private rented housing made up a significant part of the increase.

But this year’s figures were unexpected because the use of B&B has been reducing, say MK Council.

It claims efforts are being made to resolve the situation with an additional eight hostel rooms arranged and more options being explored.

The authority also says a “complex legal situation” has been resolved to bring forward 11 new build housing association homes within the next two weeks.

Plans are also in progress for nine more homes in the Bletchley area.

Roger Harding, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “The huge rise in the number of homeless families in bed and breakfasts in Milton Keynes is shocking.

“And, as more people struggle to make ends meet against the current backdrop of stagnant wages and sky high housing costs, all it takes is a sudden job loss or illness to tip a family into a spiral that could put their home at risk.

“Sadly, families who do lose their home can often find themselves trapped in unsuitable, temporary accommodation for months on end and this makes it much harder for them to get back on their feet.”

Leader of the Conservatives, Councillor Edith Bald, said: “When the Conservatives were leading the Council, tackling B&B was top priority and a number of initiatives put in place saw B&B levels halve.

“It is disappointing to see that under the new Labour Council, in only a couple of months, B&B levels have risen significantly.

“It will be a tragedy for families if Labour continue to lose the gains which the Conservatives made.

“Some good news to come is that 28 of the 38 houses purchased by the Conservatives from the open market for homeless families will be added to the Councils stock over the next month or so.”