The number of families being housed in temporary accommodation in Kettering has now reached 234, with a councillor saying the issue is the biggest issue facing the council.
Following a change of policy in the summer, Kettering Council is now largely using its own housing stock to house the families who have lost the roof over their heads.
The council has budgeted £800,000 this financial year to pay for the temporary accommodation but the council’s head of housing John Conway has now said a more realistic figure is about £950,000.
Last financial year the council spent £1.2m on housing families in temporary accommodation.
The numbers of Kettering families losing their homes is rising day by day with the number having risen from 191 in April.
After questions from councillors at last night’s research and development committee Mr Conway said the matter was a ‘serious problem’ and a combination of low council housing stock, a large private rent sector in the town and rising rents since over the past four years had led to a ‘wave of homelessness’ that has been growing year on year.
He said: “Until relatively recently were we a low cost private sector rental area. Since 2015 rents have shot up. That is something that has affected Kettering.
“If you are on a low income and can’t afford to rent or buy a home, where do you go? To our customer services.”
In contrast, neighbouring council Corby, which has a much larger housing stock, only has 22 families being temporarily housed.
The officer said the council’s own accommodation was more suitable to putting up tenants than the private properties which had largely been used in the past and that because the council was using less bed and breakfast accommodation the owners had decreased their prices by 30 to 40 per cent.
The Conservative-run authority is also in the process of building more council homes at sites across the town, some of which will be specially adapted to cater for large families or those with disabled children.
Leader of the Labour opposition Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said the issue had to be tackled otherwise it would be passed on to the unitary authority which is set to replace Kettering Council in 2021 and see the areas of Kettering, Corby, East Northants and Wellingborough governed by one super council.
He said the use of the council’s own housing to solve the issue was a ‘sticking plaster solution’ as it meant that the council’s waiting list was not reducing: “This whole issue for me should be the number one strategic priority of this council. It is the one demand-led service that this council operates that can increase and has increased. If we have learned anything from the county council it is that this is a financial legacy that this council will be pushing to the unitary council.”
He added: “Looking at the situation in other areas it is difficult to see that this is not anything other than a shortage of council houses in Kettering.”
Independent Cllr Jim Hakewill said the situation was ‘shocking’ but his suggestion to hold an extraordinary meeting to look further into the issue was voted down by the three Conservatives at the meeting; Cllr Mike Tebbutt, Cllr Ashley Davies and chair Cllr Duncan Bain.
Cllr Davies said he was mindful of ‘officer time’. Cllr Hakewill responded: “I’m mindful of the people that need a home.”
An information event for councillors will be held in November to let them know more about the scale of the problem and what actions the authority is taking to try to tackle the issue.