Bucks Council encouraged to explore the possibility of becoming a housing provider due to the ongoing surge in demand

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Buckinghamshire Council is being urged to provide its own social housing to meet the growing demand. There are currently over 6,000 people waiting for a place to live.

Bucks Council lacks direct ownership of any housing stock. Instead, individuals on the housing register are presented with tenancy opportunities through a network of more than 70 registered providers or housing associations. The increasing call for the council’s involvement in expanding affordable housing options underscores the urgency of addressing the housing crisis in the region.

However, a bipartisan chorus of council members is advocating for the exploration of the council itself becoming a housing provider. The pressing need for such action becomes evident as the latest figures, revealed in the council’s recently unveiled Housing Strategy 2024-2029, discloses a staggering 6,639 individuals on the housing register, known as Bucks Home Choice, as of March 31, 2022, with expectations of a subsequent increase.

During a recent meeting of the growth, infrastructure, and housing select committee, Labour councillor Robin Stuchbury questioned the absence of any mention of the council’s potential role as a housing provider in the strategy. In response, Councillor Mark Winn, cabinet member for homelessness and regulatory services, acknowledged the challenges involved, citing the necessity for land, staffing, and funding. However, he emphasized that such an option had not been entirely dismissed. Council officers clarified that such a move would only be contemplated in the face of a “substantial failure” across the housing system, leading to a loss of confidence in existing providers.

Despite concerns about the financial feasibility of the council becoming a housing provider, Conservative Councillor Isobel Darby asserted that it should be considered among “multiple solutions” to address the escalating shortage of affordable homes. Councillor Winn outlined the complexities involved, including the need for substantial resources, the establishment of a dedicated housing company, and funding acquisition from the Public Works Loan Board.

In the meantime, Councillor Winn outlined alternative strategies to boost affordable housing, including incorporating it into regeneration plans, considering brownfield sites, and earmarking three council-owned sites for housing development by 2027. The ongoing debate underscores the urgent need for comprehensive measures to alleviate the housing strain on the Buckinghamshire community.

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