Bucks Council urged to consider becoming housing provider as demand continues to increase

Thousands of people remain on the housing register in Buckinghamshire
Councillor Robin StuchburyCouncillor Robin Stuchbury
Councillor Robin Stuchbury

More than 6,000 people are on the housing register in Bucks as calls grow for the council to provide more affordable housing.

Bucks Council does not own any housing stock, with people on the housing register instead offered tenancies by one of over 70 registered providers or housing associations.

However, councillors from across the political spectrum have called for the council to consider becoming a housing provider itself.

The demands come as it was revealed that 6,639 people were waiting on the housing register, Bucks Home Choice, as of March 31, 2022, with the figure understood to have increased since then.

The data was published in the council’s new Housing Strategy 2024-2029, which councillors scrutinised at the meeting of the growth, infrastructure and housing select committee last week.

Labour councillor Robin Stuchbury asked why the strategy did not mention the council potentially becoming a registered housing provider.

Councillor Mark Winn, cabinet member for homelessness and regulatory services said that turning the council into a housing provider would need land, hundreds of staff and funding, although added that this option had not been dismissed.

Council officers added that the unitary local authority would only consider becoming a provider if there was a “substantial failure” across the system and it “lost confidence” in its existing housing providers.

Councillor Winn said the council was not in the financial position to become a housing provider and asked whether this was needed given that the current providers have the “money, expertise and staff to do it”.

He added: “In terms of us taking on all housing across Buckinghamshire, I don’t think that is a practical or necessary step that we need to take at this stage.”

However, Conservative Councillor Isobel Darby hit back as she also called for the council to consider becoming a housing provider as one of “multiple solutions” to tackle the “growing problem” of the shortage of affordable homes.

She said it “may not be the right route” or cost-effective but added that taking on all the homes in the county was not being suggested as Cllr Winn had implied.

Conservative Councillor Nic Brown also pressed Councillor Winn on the council’s consideration of becoming a housing provider.

Councillor Winn said: “In order to understand direct delivery, the council would have to obtain substantial new resources in terms of funding, land and staff with sufficient skills in finance, development, property and housing management.”

He added that a dedicated housing company would need to be set up and funding would need to be obtained from the Public Works Loan Board.

Councillor Winn also said the council would increase the supply of affordable housing by ensuring that affordable housing is part of regeneration plans and that brownfield sites are considered.

He also said that three council-owned sites would be brought forward for housing development, with a completion target of 2027. The register shows the number of people within the council area that qualify for social housing.

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