Croydon Council has accused the Home Office of forcing homeless families out of temporary accommodation, after it outbid it for a 10-year lease on a Thornton Heath hotel which is registered to a company incorporated in Guernsey owned by a husband and wife who live in Australia.
The Chronicle can also reveal that council’s like Southwark are buying up 10-year leases on residential properties like one recently auctioned on Mersham Road.
Thornton Heath with its large family homes provide inner London local authorities with cheaper housing to accommodate tenants but bring problems and poverty to an area already struggling to cope with huge demands on existing infrastructure: health, policing and schools.
Stonebridge Lodge had housed up to 80 homeless families. The freeholds for both Stonebridge and next door Manston Lodge are owned by a company called Mailshot Limited. The joint shareholders of Mailshot are husband and wife Kim and Paul Engelhardt live in Queensland and the company is listed as being dormant.
The HMO licences for both hotels are registered to Fierce Neutral Ltd registered in Southampton.
The cost of the deal is not known but likely runs into millions.
A stay at the Stonebridge is only available to local authorities so private individuals can’t book a night. In addition to Croydon, Wandsworth, Southwark, and Epsom have all paid money to Fierce Neutral Ltd for temporary stays at the lodge.
The overall bill for temporary accommodation in Croydon, which includes B&Bs, was £23m in 2016/17.
Demand is growing in the borough, with 50 per cent more applications being placed this year than the previous.
Chief Executive of Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, has also written a letter of complaint asking the secretary of state, Priti Patel, to reconsider her decision and explain the Home Office’s silence on the issue.
In the letter she said: “We are asking you to reconsider your decision and consider the detrimental impact of any future similar agreements on local people, the housing market and the financial constraints local authorities are under.”