Covering what’s really going on in Bristol
Powered by 2,000 members
The Bristol Cable

Bristol emergency housing provider evicting settled tenants and converting homes into high-rent emergency accommodation

More on this story: Meet the evicted tenants & Landlords doorstepped by community union

UPDATE 05.06.2016: This article has been amended following a meeting between the Cable and representatives of Connolly & Callaghan

Private tenants at a Knowle West block of flats have been evicted from their homes by Connolly & Callaghan, one of Bristol’s largest temporary accommodation providers, in order that the flats can be turned into housing for homeless families.

One such tenant who was evicted from Carpenters House is now homeless and living in temporary accommodation. Hannah (not her real name) told the Cable:

“They pulled the carpet from under my feet. In one day everything was changed for me. I have nothing.”

Evicting tenants for a profit?

Documents handed to the Cable show that after buying the block at Carpenters Place for £1.6 million in February 2016 from Eminence Property Developments, new owner Connolly & Callaghan gave tenants, many of whom had benefited from relatively affordable rents for years, two months to vacate.

Section 21 eviction notices served on 3 February at the block, which also contains owner-occupied flats, state: “All tenants are being asked kindly to leave Carpenters Place and find alternative accommodation so that the company can continue with helping the ever growing need of homelessness.”

Connolly and Callaghan Section 21 eviction notice

Connolly & Callaghan owns and manages emergency accommodation across Bristol and in South Gloucestershire. It is perhaps best known for being the owner of Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, which it leases to community interest company Coexist.

A recent Freedom of Information Request by community union ACORN revealed that the number of homeless people housed by Connolly & Callaghan rose from 140 in 2014/15 to 898 in 2015/16 in Bristol alone. Connolly and Callaghan director Martin Connolly has since told us he doesn’t “recognise the council’s figures”.

In a statement to the Cable on 27 May via crisis and reputation management specialist CHA Group, Connolly & Callaghan said it had provided a “dedicated team” providing “wide ranging” assistance, including financial support and removal costs, to Carpenters House tenants. The firm subsequently issued a second statement expanding on its version of events on 2 June, with Connolly citing a lack of communication between staff as the reason it hadn’t previously set out its story more fully.

The Cable has since seen documents confirming that support was offered in at least some cases. At a meeting on 3 June, Connolly also told us that two households refusing to leave Carpenters Place would now be able to stay, potentially indefinitely, albeit on monthly rents rising from £525 to £675. It would be “embarrassing”, he said, for his firm and Bristol council if bailiffs were to evict anyone from the block, only for them to end up back in the homelessness system.

Yet statements from Carpenters Place tenants call into question the new block owner’s version of events, and the consistency of its approach.

One couple who have remained in their flat, Gary and Lilla, who have a four-month-old baby, said they couldn’t afford to move out or to pay the extra rent, and have decided they have no other option but to stay put in the place they call home. “[Connolly & Callaghan] tried to get us scared – they said they’d take us to court,” Lilla said.

Hannah, meanwhile, claims Connolly & Callaghan failed to notify her via email of the Section 21 notice while she was out of the country – and that she returned to find her flat had been cleared under ‘abandonment’ procedures. In the process, some of her property had been lost, she said, while other personal belongings had been left for use by the family who subsequently moved in.

Anya (not her real name), another former tenant, said: “When we got the letter I was in the third month of pregnancy, it caused a lot of stress because it’s not easy to find a flat or house in such a short time. We wrote to the new owner, asking [if] maybe we could stay longer… I called a few times but got no answer. I think after two weeks we got an answer – we have to move out and we do not get more time.”

Leading homelessness cause

 

Termination of private-sector tenancies was the leading cause of homelessness in Bristol last year according to government statistics, with rental prices rising more quickly here than almost anywhere else in the UK.

Tenancy agreements seen by the Cable show flats converted into emergency accommodation in Carpenters Place are being rented at more than £300 per week. Emergency accommodation rents tend to be far higher than for housing on the open market, because of associated expenses such as for furniture and bedding, cleaning, staffing and security. Figures published in May showed that Bristol council had spent £4.4m on emergency accommodation over an 18-month period – one of the highest figures outside London.

Connolly & Callaghan has endured a mixed relationship with Bristol council. In 2014, Bristol Foundation Housing, a charity founded by the firm that housed single homeless people, closed – partly because the local authority cut its levels of housing benefit after an inspection reported chaotic management and a lack of consistent service provision for tenants.

It is understood that the ACORN community union is launching a campaign on this issue with a petition; meanwhile the Cable will continue to investigate.


The Cable has contacted Bristol council for comment and will add this as soon as received.

 

Public interest journalism is expensive, takes time and can be risky.

But powering Bristol’s media co-op isn’t.

Join the Cable

Read more on: affordable housing, connolly and callaghan, homelessness, housing, privatisation

Comments

Report a comment

  • Sean says:

    if you were ever in one of their properties you’d be shocked at how they manage them. they are a rachmanite scab on Bristols body politic

  • Danny says:

    This is a very important issue to cover. However, this article seems to be very loaded, and it would be good to know where the rental figures come from, and the actual terms of those contracts referenced. For instance, when does the extra £175 per month kick-in? Clearly it’s an unacceptable price-hike, but I’d like to hear C&C’s explanation – there is little in here that serves to hear both sides of the situation.

    It seems there are two real issues which should not be conflated:
    1. The clearly unfit for purpose emergency housing policy and strategy by BCC if people are becoming homeless to house the homeless;
    2. The work of C&C, including their strategy to secure buildings/homeless tenants.

    Let’s have a proper investigation into C&C’s operations:
    How do they work?
    Are they making fair profits?
    Is there any truth to the story that they initially wanted to provide homeless accomodation as a charity but BCC would not allow it?
    What is C&C’s strategy for housing provision and is it ethical/fit for purpose?
    How do they treat their tenants? Let’s not just have one person’s anecdotal story!

    Finally, what other emergency housing providers are there in Bristol and how do they compare in terms of tenant’s welfare?

    This is a difficult article because C&C deliver a really important service, and they have supported the Coexist project at Hamilton House, so it would be good to get clarity here and not sensationalise an issue that needs careful attention.

    • Alex Turner says:

      Hi Danny and thanks for taking time to comment.

      Several days before publishing this article, we sent a detailed list of questions to C&C in an effort to get their perspective on issues raised by former tenants of Carpenters Place and those still in flats. These included trying to clarify the apparently inconsistent treatment (having to leave, staying but with a rent hike and its terms etc) different people have experienced, as well as seeking to understand C&C’s motivations/strategy for buying this block to turn into temporary accommodation. The full response, which left many of our questions unanswered, is linked to from the article: https://thebristolcable.org/2016/05/connolly-and-callaghan-full-response-may-27th-2016/

      C&C, as a longstanding provider of homeless accommodation, should be well informed of the different facets of the housing crisis in Bristol. The organisation houses many families who have lost their homes because of private-sector evictions, so it appears highly questionable at best that it should expand that business through a process that causes other tenants to lose settled homes. Regardless of C&C’s other works good or bad, in this instance it seems hard to square the firm’s actions with those of a responsible temporary accommodation provider, based on the facts we have. We are still in dialogue with C&C and will be happy to add more detail to this article as and when we get it.

      Alex

    • Rich says:

      A closer look at how Bristol City Council is helping the homeless situation in Bristol

      C&C the main emergency housing provider… assets at Companies House are heading towards £20 million.

      Profit showing as around £5 million in 2014.

      Let’s not forget long term capital appreciation on assets.

      Companies house records show business activity as ‘Housing Association’.

      But this company is essentially owned by Martin Connelley – 1 now very rich individual thanks to Bristol City Council’s emergency housing policy.

      I am failing to see where ethical housing provider comes into this? Please help.

    • Elisabeth Winkler says:

      Hi Danny

      Many thanks for your concern. I am a freelance communications consultant working with Connolly & Callaghan. Connolly & Callaghan seeks to respond transparently to the above criticisms.

      Just a few points here: Connolly & Callaghan is proud of the quality of the accommodation and the service its staff provides, which is why it has issued an open invitation to ACORN to inspect its maintenance log and come view its accommodation.

      Re: the rent increase: Two rent increases have been issued only to the remaining two flats still occupied. These rent increases have yet to take effect, at which point the rent will match the local average, with the correct legal notice. If the circumstances stay the same, Connolly & Callaghan has no intention of evicting anyone.

      Co-owner Martin Connolly says: “The real story is the UK’s national housing policy, government benefit cuts, the deregulation of house prices and rents and, as a consequence, an unprecedented rise in homelessness.”

      Connolly & Callaghan press statement is here.

      Elisabeth

  • Laura says:

    I am currently homeless with my 3 children, and have been a previous tenant with Connely & Callaghan. I stayed in a different premises ran by them, and have to say I had no problem with the service they were providing. I am now in different temporary accommodation and been here four months. If given a choice I would prefer to be back with C&C rather than where I am now but were not given a choice unfortunately. The rooms were clean, presentable, comfortable and the staff were very pleasant. I can think they make a huge difference to do unexpected homeless families in Bristol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Edition 20 Housing Bristol Banner Home Page

Housing coops: a landlord you can trust

Housing Bristol Banner Home Page Edition 20

Some locals are financially benefiting from gentrification in St Pauls. But at a cost.

Reports Ice Cream Slavery Case Investigations Banner Home Page

Exclusive: Council to “urgently” investigate Lopresti landlord business, but ice cream vans untouched for now

Opinion Banner Home Page Edition 20

Goodbye to unfair letting fees 

Reports Banner Home Page Edition 20

Too hot to handle? Help us investigate fire at ‘The Office’ in Speedwell

Edition 19 Opinion Banner Home Page

Tiny homes: ‘An innovative way of getting people to accept less’

Powered by members

If you like our work, join us. For as little as £1 / month.

Join now