Bournemouth Council to enter property market

Bournemouth Borough Council is to debate on Monday a plan to buy up properties in the town to house homeless families - a practice that is already happening in the London boroughs of Enfield and Westminster.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to house homeless people in temporary and emergency accommodation. Because they have no available properties of their own they often have to turn to bed and breakfasts to put families up. Councillor Robert Lawton explains:

"It will help us to reduce costs, for example, avoiding the use of expensive B&B accommodation. By owning the properties, it would mean that the council would be able to ensure the properties are good quality and well managed. In the longer term, any income generated and increase in property values would come back to the council to help fund additional services for vulnerable people."

Bournemouth saw one of the biggest increases in renting between 2001 and 2011 of anywhere in the country, and we predict that both MPs will represent more renters than home owners by the next election.

While it is better for the council to provide housing for vulnerable people instead of profiteering private landlords, they are just adding to demand for existing stock, which puts up prices. Ultimately, it would be better for the council to build their own emergency accommodation which would add to the quantity of housing in Bournemouth and help keep rents in check.

Bournemouth plans to spend £10m buying up 60 houses over the next three years. Obviously there’s an immediate need which warrants buying existing homes, but they should start building now. By Year 3, they could have even more new homes that they’d otherwise have bought on the open market.

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