More than 70 properties at St Michael’s Gate in Peterborough are set to be bought by the city council - three years after families living on the estate were evicted to make way for the homeless.
The Peterborough Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the council was considering whether to buy 72 homes at the Parnwell estate or extend a lease to continue using them as temporary accommodation for residents needing a roof over their heads.
However, plans have now been released showing that the authority is seeking to purchase the properties for £13.38 million, which would include carrying out works on the windows which “need replacing” in the near future.
The authority was roundly criticised in 2016 after the PT exclusively revealed 72 tenants and their families at the estate were being evicted to be replaced by the city’s homeless.
The saga brought widespread national and international coverage and led to calls for a law change, led by the PT.
Earlier this year the campaign drew success when the Government pledged to outlaw Section 21 evictions, meaning private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes without good reason.
The evictions at St Michael’s Gate were carried out by private housing firm Stef & Philips, the managing agents of the properties which had been bought by Paul Simon Magic Homes.
The properties were then leased by Stef & Philips to the council which used them as temporary accommodation as it faced rising levels of homelessness.
The council insisted that if did not rent the homes, Stef & Philips would have instead rented them to another local authority which would have moved homeless families from outside the city into Peterborough, costing local taxpayers millions of pounds.
However, the decision to do a deal with Stef & Philips for nearly £1 million a year provoked condemnation.
With the lease expiring in November the council has decided to try and purchase the homes as it continues to support high numbers of homeless families.
A report released by the authority states that borrowing to buy the homes will be cheaper in the long term than continuing to rent them, and that if it failed to act now “there is a significant risk to the council that it could lose this accommodation in the future”.
Cllr Steve Allen, cabinet member for housing at Peterborough City Council, said: “The purchase of St Michael’s Gate really is a no-brainer - it would be £600,000 cheaper for us to own the properties rather than lease them, it secures them for the long-term use of city residents in housing need and, crucially, if we don’t choose to buy them someone else will, perhaps another council.
“If we don’t act now we could potentially lose one of the largest sites used for temporary accommodation in the city, forcing families to move into costly and unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation.”
Over the last 12 months a variety of repairs and modernisations have been made to St Michael’s Gate for residents. This includes the installation of new boilers and heating systems in all homes, brought about by the city council and paid for by the Local Enterprise Advice Partnership (LEAP) fund.