Caridon responds to criticism of Terminus House and Templefields House

3rd February 2020

You would be forgiven for not knowing the name ‘Caridon’ up until a few months ago, as we quietly went about providing housing for those in need of accommodation. From throwing a lifeline to Neil who became a fixture of woods in Horsham, where he camped out in a tent he called home, to Kerry, who became homeless fleeing domestic violence. Caridon has been quietly going about its business providing roofs over much needed, and desperately wanting heads for over 10 years. Helping those unable to help themselves, we have earned multiple national awards as we come up against recognised household names in the pursuit of recognition for our efforts.

Roll on February 2018, and Caridon becomes a name featured in both the tabloids and broadsheet newspapers for its use of Permitted Development Rights legislation (PDR), introduced by the Tory government in 2013 as a solution to the lack of provision of housing in the UK. Not a bad thing some might say? An organisation working within the law to deliver hope to the hopeless, but more importantly, homes to the homeless. In an ideal world, such a company could not be identified as a target for criticism, though where politics and media drives the economy, the result has proved to be totally different.

What seemed to be an innovative solution to the housing crisis came under heavy attack from Labour voices, trying to regain political capital on the back of legislation penned by blue ink.The legislation was also hugely criticised by some professional industry commentators, notably architects who feared for their profession as a progression of PDR thinking would render their roles marginal.PDR was hugely disliked by local councils as they lost control of decisions which affected their townships.

Characteristically, like other legislation in its infancy, PDR requires refinement in trying to solve a housing crisis that shows no signs of abatement. Equally characteristically of a critic, those attacking PDR legislation, and companies such as Caridon making use of it, have offered no better solution to that which they deplore.

Caridon, a family run business began life providing truly affordable housing to those in receipt of state benefits. Like many other private developers, Caridon recognised the opportunity to utilise under used, and often empty office blocks which became a feature of modern life as we changed the way we work. Taking advantage of PDR legislation, the opportunity to realise this space and convert it into much needed social housing seemed a perfect solution. Instead of having to rely on a slow and unwieldy planning processes, the compliance with a handful of criteria gives rise to the green light to commence residential redevelopment under PDR. Like any other development within the UK, strict building control regulations need to be adhered to.

Unlike many other developers enjoying the new freedom of relaxed rules of planning compliance, Caridon did not redevelop for resale to the private sector making significant profit. It is no surprise that by and large, developers choose not to develop for social housing as the economics make such development untenable from a profitability perspective, when compared against the margins awaiting those operating in the private sector. With central and local government resources stretched, the supply of housing stock to the social sector is insufficient to bring about equilibrium.

The UK faces a chronic lack of social housing as populations and cities continue to grow rapidly. While more housing is needed than is being built, the UK is also loath to encroach on green space. Growing inequality means that many people in the UK have no choice but to live in shared accommodation such as hostels and B&Bs, or in the worst cases, face street homelessness.

By converting under utilised office space, Caridon have been able to supply hundreds of brand new, good quality apartments to the social sector which otherwise would not exist. The studios are akin to quality student accommodation consisting of a kitchen, self contained bathroom in addition to living sleeping space. Additionally, a number of one and two bedroom apartments have also been delivered to a high standard of build quality. This translates to hundreds of tenants being housed in brand new accommodation who would otherwise remain legally, or worse still, literally homeless. Regardless of such acts, Caridon have not been afforded the cloak of protection from media attack but instead have been represented as the poster boy of all things wrong with PDR.

As a forward thinking and democratic nation, we require an independent and unbiased media to hold our public and private bodies to account. Where quasi-roles are played out by private developers providing social housing, the role of the media is paramount in identifying unscrupulous practices and unveiling rogue landlords profiteering from the public purse. However, if we are to truly rely on such reporting, we would expect journalism to be balanced and non-partisan. Regrettably, it would seem that much of the reporting on PDR has failed at the first hurdle as equity seems to have got lost behind agendas.

When contacted by journalists proposing to run a negative piece on our PDR sites, we are given notice of any complaints made. We are invited to reply to any complaints or allegations made, regardless of their provenance. We embrace the opportunity to respond to any complaints and frequently provide positive case studies and often ask that the media fairly reports their findings. Complaints have originated from a handful of families residing in studios who rightly have every reason to be aggrieved, to some complaining of anti-social behaviour. We welcome a responsible media to bring such stories to the attention of the public, though at the same time, make use of positive news stories where they disproportionately outweigh the negative discovered during their investigations. Regrettably, such positive stories have seldom found their way to media platforms to be made available for public dissection. Unfortunately, what has been left is an impression of Caridon which does not reflect the reality of the experiences of our tenants or the services which we provide.

What we have hoped to do in this piece is set the record straight and address the allegations made in the media:

“Caridon is Cashing in on the housing crisis”

Our accommodation is significantly cheaper than alternative temporary B&B accommodation which comes at vast expense to the public purse. The amounts quoted by the media as being received by Caridon is absolutely correct; though what they’ve forgotten to mention however is that:

a.Caridon pays out the majority of that income in rent / mortgage payments

b.Cardion must fund the management of the buildings with intensive security and other services

c.Our net profit is 2.06% on turnover

Caridon places families into unsuitable studio accommodation

Caridon builds and makes provision of apartments of all sizes and configurations including studio apartments. The studio apartments are intended to provide a temporary housing solution to transition individuals out of shared accommodation, and in some cases, away from homelessness. Due to the pressure placed on already stretched local authority resources such authorities occasionally refer families to us. We have no say as to whether we accept or reject such tenants as the local authorities can place tenants at their sole discretion due to the leases or nomination agreements which they have with us. In other words, local authorities rent space from us and can decide whoever they choose to place into that space. Additionally, in some instances we have housed single females in our studios who become mothers during their stay in our buildings.

Caridon buildings give rise to anti-social behaviour

Regrettably, it is a feature of many local authority estates around the country of anti-social practices and we are not immune to such behaviour. Over the years of our buildings being in existence, there have been calls to the emergency services, which again, is not an uncommon feature for local authority estates. We have a zero-tolerance approach to criminal and antisocial behaviour on all of our sites and act robustly, including evicting tenants where necessary. We have a strong and close working relationship with the authorities, local agencies and the police.

Caridon relies on PDR legislation which does not require planning permission

Although conventional planning permission is not required, there are a number of criteria to be met before a building can qualify for conversion. Not every building is automatically approved for conversion and strict fire regulations and building control standards must be met.

Caridon apartments are unattractive and unfit for purpose

The media have tended to photograph our apartments, stacked high with paraphernalia to convey a negative impression of the space and function of our studios in particular. We have set out our typical apartments for you to look around so that you can decide whether these are fit for temporary social housing for individuals. We have not cherry picked any particular apartments or layout, as those depicted on our site represent our apartment offering. Have look for yourself and you will see why showing our apartments (as they are when handed to tenants), may not help to show the worst of what PDR can deliver for social housing.

In the interests of complete transparency, please click here to take a look for yourselves.

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