Luton council has opened Lets Squared, a High Street lettings and estate agency using public funds - even though the town has literally scores of private agency offices.
The authority has joined forces with local community housing association squared to for a ‘Social Letting Agency’, known as Lets Squared.
The two organisations, supported by the government’s own Housing Communities and Local Government Committee, are becoming what they call “a high street estate agent with services covering social lettings, private rented lettings and sales.”
A statement from the council says the agency was created to provide a route to the private rented sector for applicants on benefits and low incomes.
“Very often people in such circumstances find it hard to get high quality accommodation because of the challenges of needing to be able to provide deposits, references and other criteria which can be significant obstacles” says the statement.
The council says Lets Squared will have “a different philosophy to that of high street letting agents. It will offer a wider range of services rarely seen elsewhere” and its business model includes:
- tenants will not be charged for the service;
- there will be particular help for those who have been sleeping rough;
- it will target individuals and groups who would not normally be able to use a high street letting agent, specifically the homeless and those living in temporary accommodation;
- it will not make a profit from housing those threatened with homelessness;
- it claims it will “raiseproperty conditions, to high lettable and management standards.”
In order to help sustain the social letting aspect of the company, what it describes as “competitive fees” will be charged for the private rented and sales service.
Profits made in this way will, it claims, “enable the company to offer properties at below market values.”
Unlike other agencies, staff will not receive commission on properties.
John Holman, interim service director for housing, says: “Luton Lets Squared is an exciting initiative that brings together the accumulated knowledge and experience of two valued organisations. Affordable accommodation is vital for everyone in the town – irrespective of who they are – and for many a dependable, secure home is the first step towards lifting themselves out of financial hardship. Luton lets will play a small but vital role in delivering the council’s aim of no one living in poverty by 2040.”