Wellingborough Council has been hit by a housing crisis as it has spent more than £1 million in the past 12 months on temporary accommodation for hundreds of families who have been evicted from their homes.
The costs of helping homeless families move into hotels and temporary homes has put the local authority under extreme financial pressure.
Emergency measures are now taking place as the council, which does not have any of its own housing stock, is using £725,000 earmarked for capital projects to buy some properties to help it house homeless families.
The matter was discussed behind closed doors as an exempt agenda item in the council’s chamber last night (Wednesday) to attempt to come up with some solutions to the crisis and reorganise its housing service department.
It may also contract in an external housing provider.
Labour councillor Andrew Scarborough said the situation has been caused by a combination of insufficient social houses being built in recent years, coupled with rising private rents and stagnant wages.
He said: “In my 30 years as a councillor I have not known a crisis as big as this.
“The problem has grown dramatically in the past year with perhaps 100 families a month coming into the council saying they are at risk of eviction.
“New tenancy laws mean that raising rents and evicting tenants has become easier.
“It is a shocking situation as these are real lives we are dealing with.
“Children only get the one chance at growing up and not having a decent home to do that in is a real disadvantage that can have big impacts on their education and future prospects.”
The number of Wellingborough families being made homeless has risen by 38 per cent in 2017/18 in the past 12 months with 286 families arriving at council offices with nowhere to live in the 10 months between April 2017 and February 2018.
The cost of providing temporary accommodation rose from £386,899 in 2016/17 and was estimated to cost about £1,125,000 in 2017/18.
The council pays on average £55 for a family to stay in a hotel or self contained accommodation per night.
Increased lengths of stay (from 42 days in 2016/17 to 62 days in 2017/18) have also led to much higher costs to the council.
Wellingborough Council transferred its housing stock to Wellingborough Homes in 2007.
All local authorities have a statutory duty to home families who have been made ‘unintentionally’ homeless.
A report about the housing delivery service that went before Wellingborough Council in March laid out the severity of the situation.
It said: “The council has increasing service and financial demands and there is a risk of the council not being sustainable in the short term.
“The demand of private sector housing, social and affordable housing far outweighs supply.
“It is vital that the supply of affordable housing is increased but in the meantime we have to deal with the needs of those who require housing in stock we just don’t have.”
Over the past few decades the number of council-built properties has hugely reduced and local authority housing stocks have dwindled as tenants buy their homes under the right to buy scheme.
The number of people becoming homeless across the country has risen dramatically over the past year.
Corby currently has a number of homeless men living in tents across the town’s woodlands and five rough sleepers have died in Northampton since the start of the year.