The Royal Town and Planning Institute has published a report on the growing role for Councils in providing new housing.[i]
The report endorses what Milton Keynes Council is doing whilst highlighting that the Government needs to change the rules allowing Councils to borrow to invest.
The report highlights that 65% of Councils are involved in building new council housing. What is different, however, is that as well as traditional housing for low cost rent Councils are building new homes for sale and for different rent levels. Most councils are also building new homes through housing companies, partnerships and through General Fund investment. (This is investment funded by Council tax income)
In Milton Keynes since 2015/16 the Labour led Council has built or acquired 136 new homes. With a further 50 new builds to start next year. Further acquisition is also being considered.
It is also developing 200 homes at higher rents and 80 modular houses through a partnership with Mears.
However the report highlights that the main constraint on building new homes is the continued Government cap on the ability of Milton Keynes Council to borrow to invest.
Cllr Nigel Long, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Housing said, “Milton Keynes is embracing new council housing both through new build and through more creative arrangements. This includes other forms of rented housing. In the longer term we will offer houses for low cost sale and shared ownership as well as homes at a range of rent levels.”
Council Leader Cllr Pete Marland added, “We are pleased to be building and acquiring new council houses. However, we are only addressing the tip of the housing and homelessness crisis iceberg. We had 666 households in temporary accommodation last week. We will only be able to tackle this problem if we can build hundreds of extra homes each year. To do that, as the report says, we must be able to invest. That means the Tory cap on investment must be lifted.”
Cllr Long concluded, “Milton Keynes Council is doing what most Councils are doing and building new homes. But to be effective we need the local MPs to change their minds and back our call for the borrowing cap to be removed. Until we can invest we will have hundreds of homeless households in temporary accommodation every Christmas. It is just wrong that there will be over 1,000 children in such places this Christmas.”