by Farah Damji
13:08 PM, 27th March 2012, About 10 years ago 7
*Property118 is not in any way aligned with Kazuri nor Farah Damji, but we believe questions should be raised about the funding being poured into Shelter and Crisis to work with private landlords when they have done and continue to do so much to damage the reputation of the Private Rented Sector. We believe this matter is of interest to all landlords and we thought it was worth bringing to your attention the actions which Ms. Damji is taking to block this allocation of public funds.*
*A response from Crisis to the content of this open letter has been published in full in the comments below.*
Dear Mr Shapps,
I write in dismay about the additional funding being given to charities such as Crisis and Shelter next month to “help end homelessness” in the private rented sector (PRS). This is referred hereto on the Crisis PRS website:
The Crisis PRS Access Development Programme funds new community based services that help single homeless people find and sustain good quality accommodation in the private rented sector (PRS). It builds on Crisis’ history and expertise in PRS solutions to homelessness and represents an investment of over £10m of DCLG funding over a three year period.
There is no independent monitoring or evaluation of outcomes or sustainability in what Crisis and Shelter are doing. I know of cases in which dozens of tenancies have not been maintained because support was not there for tenants being placed through the scheme, and in others when quite manageable performance targets were reduced by 75% because charities who had been given this funding could not access private landlords, whom they have to engage in order to get people into properties. Once a person has been offered a property through the PRS they are removed from the Local Authority’s Housing List and are no longer able to access it, therefore if they cannot maintain the tenancy they are homeless again without recourse to the Local Authority or indeed the charity funded by these hare-brained schemes. One I know, Vision Housing, claims to house ex-offenders and has been granted £50,000. The owner then insists the tenant also gets a crisis loan from the DWP to pay a “referral fee,” thereby poverty pimping off the most needy and destitute. I am an ex-offender, I have gone through the ridiculous process of trying to access suitable housing and that this is not acceptable, you cannot seek to profit through other people’s desperation. It’s worse than loan sharking or doorstep payday loans which at least are in the process of being regulated.
I attach a schedule of Kazuri’s outcomes up to November 2011 so you can see the model works. Not one woman has been sent back to prison, been convicted of a new offence or gone back to a violent relationship and we are now expanding the provision to assist Local Authorities move men and women off the Housing Lists, and those out of prison and from Accident and Emergency wards into sustained housing.
This has been good for Kazuri, when charities who have been funded through the Crisis grants have not been able to access landlords, not even through letting agencies, they have approached us and paid referral fees. Ours is not a leaky charity bucket model which breeds dis-empowerment, we are a social enterprise with a triple bottom line, human, social and financial return on investment. Our tenancy agreements actually state the tenant must partake in employment, education and/or training, do a minimum of 5 hours of volunteer work in a recognized project for the benefit of the community to help restore the broken social bond and work with a mentor. We undertake monthly tenancy checks and support our tenants to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. This is not the model to which charities who have been rinsing Supporting People budgets for years work. They are being paid through Supporting People budgets to keep people on benefits dis-empowered and dependent on Local Housing Allowance. Rather like characters from a Dickens novel, they are paid to retain a substrata of society to stay within the culture of entitlement which is no longer affordable to our society. Sadly in this case, truth is stranger than fiction.
Crisis and Shelter fund charities who cannot compete in the highly competitive PRS and, whilst there are undoubtedly pockets of good practice, they are not given any outcomes which they have to attain by Central Government. This is free money, literally for nothing except to manage their own top heavy bureaucratic structures. This is far removed from this Government’s move away from non-performance and moving towards rewarding success rather than stagnation through the payments by results models. I am greatly concerned at the lengths to which Crisis and Shelter attempt to demonize and indeed criminalize all landlords with their recent Rogue Landlords campaign and by the flyer attached herewith, which I picked up in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket.
The sector has long called for regulation and good landlords- which are the vast majority- do not condone nor participate in the illegal activities of a few rogue landlords who are common criminals benefiting from the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Indeed one of the most respected landlord’s organizations has just started a petition asking the Government to bring in mandatory licensing of lettings agencies. This should be supported and applauded. I ask where the funding is coming from for the film that Shelter has commissioned and whether this has been sanctioned by Government. Surely it is in everyone’s interest to work with the landlords who are the gateway to the private rented sector, not disgust and alienate them completely. Why then would they encourage name-calling and hostility towards those people who must engage in the process of providing shelter? When private landlords see campaigns based on bullying, they cease to offer their properties up to the PRS. Let’s face it, who hasn’t been burnt by private rented sector “incentives” run by Local Authorities? Tower Hamlets and Brighton councils are now planning to run their own social lettings agencies. With the amount of bad feeling and arrears they generate and the rush to remove risk and responsibility to the private sector, these schemes are doomed to fail and I will be there lighting the funeral pyre when they implode and Heads of Housing are asked why they didn’t act in cooperation with landlords rather than trying to change the sector to fit public sector preconceptions, backwards momentum and rigidity.
The voluntary sector cannot take on the risk or the responsibility as pointed out by Bernard Jenkin, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) recently when discussing the failure of the Government’s much touted Work Programme. There is no transparency in the process around which funds are decanted to Crisis or to Shelter and no transparency either in the way these funds are given the charities who benefit or to the tenants they are supposedly placing in tenancies.
Until the complete and audited evaluation of the current funding schemes in place and a report is published concerning what has actually been achieved in the way of sustained (longer than 6 months) tenancies and other outcomes, such as lessened benefits and journey travelled towards employment or education, I must ask that this next round of funding is suspended. There is no case to be made for simply passing money on to charities who do NOT help homeless people and who have never built a building or been a landlord. Based on the Housing First model which Kazuri has successfully deployed, there is no point offering jewellery making classes- as do Crisis in their lovely building located in a prime location and is expensively staffed- for people to get into work as they cannot work if they have nowhere to live. The voluntary sector cannot sustain the risk of the responsibility to engage the PRS in this manner. Shelter and Crisis are good at academia, policy and research, let them raise and generate funding for that and not pretend to be tinkering round actually putting people into long term homes, which is the heart of the problem.
Kazuri is in the process of compiling a response along with some of the largest landlord organizations and regulatory bodies, developers, builders, town planners, property lawyers and housing specialists as well as institutional investors and high street banks to Sir Adrian Montague’s call for consultation asking why the private and institutional investor will not engage in the private rented sector. I would urge you to wait until the evaluations of Sir Adrian’s findings before funding anymore “charity” private rented sector schemes.
I hope to hear from you as a matter of urgency. I am considering having the funding issue brought forward to the Public Accounts Committee and will seek Judicial Review about the process as to how the funding has been allocated. I trust this will not be necessary.
Director of Development
Kazuri Properties Ltd
*A response from Crisis to the content of this open letter has been published in full in the comments below. Click here to read.*
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