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Shelter boss says landlords and letting agencies are exploiting crisis to become ‘homeless tycoons’

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Thu 06 Feb 2020

Shelter boss says landlords and letting agencies are exploiting crisis to become ‘homeless tycoons’

Shelter has attacked businesses including landlords and letting agencies for turning homelessness into big business.

Shelter boss Polly Neate said in The Times yesterday that more than 86,000 households in England are living in temporary accommodation, costing councils over a billion pounds.

She said: “We’re in the middle of a housing emergency: soaring rents, deep housing benefit cuts, no-fault evictions and behind it all a chronic shortage of social housing.”

She said local councils legally have to help and have to find “somewhere, anywhere, for them to go”.

Neate went on: “Step forward the homeless tycoons.”

She attacked providers of “social housing solutions” that are nothing of the sort.

Neate particularly criticised developers who exploit permitted development rights to convert former office buildings into a warren of tiny units.

She said: “The result is human warehouses on remote industrial estates where children have nowhere to play but a car park and share one cramped room with their parents.

“In many cases the so-called providers have no accommodation of their own. They are in effect letting agents, enticing private landlords away from direct lets with offers of guaranteed rents and maximised revenue.

“These units are offered to councils at extortionate rates.

“And so the housing crisis is monetised: public money pays for landlords’ and agency directors’ mansions and pools, while families raise their children in grimy, shoebox rooms.”

Her article in The Times has had a range of comments including one which says: “Charities and their senior staff too are big business.”

Another says: “Polly is on £122,500 a year! It’s a tough job helping the homeless but I’m glad she has made the sacrifice.”

Neate’s article follows a joint investigation between Shelter and Panorama, resulting in this week’s TV programme.

It said that almost 90% of the £1.1bn spent on temporary accommodation went to private companies last year.

According to Inside Housing magazine, 18 of the top 25 temporary accommodation providers receiving the most money were “private letting agents”.

It said that one, Finefair Consultancy, received £15.4m from nine local authorities, receiving the most money in 2018/19.

The firm is London-based and according to its website offers guaranteed rent schemes and property management, and belongs to The Property Ombudsman scheme.

Inside Housing also named housing associations as being on the list in addition to private companies.