A letting agent has been slammed after taking a whopping £5.5m in housing benefit from a charity housing homeless people. Campaigners have described the act as a, ‘worrying arrangement.’
Investing Solutions, operational across seven London boroughs, received the money over a two-year period from the Fresh Start Housing, which pledges to find properties for single, homeless men.
According to a BBC investigation, the company, based in York Road, Battersea, has earned an £11,568 annual profit from one single property. The company nor the charity have broken the law with their actions, but understandably, campaigners have described the arrangement as ‘exploitation.’
The investigation found evidence of some Investing Solutions properties were substandard, with issues such as rat infestation and damp in many homes.
Candida Jones, Labour councillor at Wandsworth Council, commented that, ‘it is shocking that so much public money can be paid to house some of our most vulnerable people in filthy and dangerous conditions.’ She feels that, ‘in a properly regulated housing market exploitation of this kind could not have happened.’
‘I can’t understand why alarm bells were not ringing at Wandsworth Council. They are flat-footed when it comes to investigating local landlords.’
As spokeswoman for housing charity Crisis said that longer-term tenancies and an obligatory register for landlords would assist in protecting tenants. She noted that, ‘too often, people who are at risk of homelessness are in a terrible situation.’
‘It is evident the people at the lower end of the market are so vulnerable. We know that private companies are exploiting people-it is worrying. In a market where demand has grown so much, it is unsurprising that this sort of thing is happening.’
However, company director Samir Patel, denied that there was a link between Investing Solutions and charity Fresh Start Housing. He would neither confirm or deny that £5.5m was given to his company during the period, but noted that figure was possibly accurate.
Mr Patel said,’ we lease properties from landlords. We house homeless people in need. We do not charge them any fees. These clients are in desperate need of housing. I could rent to working people and get more money but we think of this as a win-win situation because the homeless are getting homes.’
‘If the council could house them there would not be a demand for our homes,’ he added.