Claim Bedford families would be evicted to home Luton homeless 'misleading and inaccurate'

Demand for housing far outstrips supply, says council
Bedford Borough Hall and Luton Town HallBedford Borough Hall and Luton Town Hall
Bedford Borough Hall and Luton Town Hall

A claim families would be evicted from their Bedford properties to house homeless Luton people has been described as “both misleading and inaccurate”.

Luton’s opposition Liberal Democrat group labelled it an “evil plan” to oust Bedford residents from their flats through an arrangement with a housing organisation.

But Luton Borough Council hit back over the claims, saying it was given “first refusal” on renting some empty units in 2021, and added it was working with Bedford Borough Council.

LibDem group leader and Barnfield councillor David Franks claimed Labour-run Luton Borough Council wanted “to evict innocent families, so it can take over 141 flats for Luton people in temporary accommodation “.

A deal the local authority signed up to with housing provider Arpeggio Properties Limited involves “buying up blocks of flats in Bedford, evicting tenants and then leasing the empty flats”, he said.

“The apartments are leased for the council to rehouse homeless people currently in transitional properties in Luton.

“We know the town has a housing problem. But paying a property firm to evict innocent families so these flats can be leased to LBC at higher rents isn’t the way to solve it.

“What happens to the families that are compulsorily evicted under this process?” asked councillor Franks. “It’s an evil plan.

“Meanwhile, there are proposals for huge blocks of flats to be built around Luton town centre and no intention to ensure they’re bought or rented by local residents.

“Most will be occupied by people from St Albans and London, where property prices are too high for them to afford.

“We’ve no problem with those Londoners or St Albans residents, but first priority should be to house people who live or work in Luton already,” he added.

“Liberal Democrat councillors have argued many times for a Luton residents first policy, while the Labour administration has made no progress on this proposal.”

Luton Borough Council hit back, branding the opposition group’s comments “both misleading and inaccurate”.

It said in a statement: “It’s not correct to imply there was any pre-existing agreement between ourselves and Arpeggio Properties Limited.

“The council doesn’t own any of the properties in Bedford. But we were approached by the company in 2021 and given first refusal on renting some of the empty units.

“Mindful of their location, we’re working with Bedford Borough Council and have offered it 40 of the 138 properties for the local authority’s own housing needs.

“It’s also completely inaccurate to say the council has no plans to help Luton residents find suitable accommodation. We’ve adopted policies in our Local Plan, which require us to provide a range of housing options.

“These include affordable properties within new developments, social rented accommodation and first homes bought at a discounted rate. These policies prioritise town residents needing access to housing.

“Luton has a very challenging set of housing needs, in which demand far outstrips supply. This is particularly the case for families, so obviously we need to consider various opportunities to alleviate this.

“The council continuously strives to do all it can to meet the needs of local residents,” the statement added.

“It maximises the delivery of affordable housing through direct involvement wherever possible and works with partners to influence more opportunities in the town.”