Hackney Council’s “social letting agency” is not really a letting agency at all, the Hackney Citizen can reveal.
Hackney Priority Homes (HPH) was launched with widespread media attention in 2014.
It was first touted a year earlier by the Town Hall’s then housing chief Cllr Karen Alcock.
She told the Evening Standard at the time: “There is talk of a London-wide letting agency but what I wanted to do is get on with it. It would be great if this becomes something other boroughs in London did.”
In 2014, Hackney’s mayor Philip Glanville, who was then Alcock’s successor as cabinet member for housing, revealed that HPH had been given the go-ahead: “Hackney Council passed a motion on improving the private rented sector at full council.
“One key aspect of the motion was the development of a council-run letting agency; I am pleased to say this social letting agency is in the process of being set up and will provide another avenue for residents to find good quality rental properties.”
But when quizzed about HPH, a Town Hall spokesperson admitted: “Hackney Priority Homes is not a private lettings agency. It operates as part of the Council’s Housing Needs Housing Supply Service, providing a range of options for landlords, from tenant-finding through to full management should a landlord require.”
They said the Town Hall has worked with “well over 100 landlords” since HPH was launched.
Other councils, such as Newham, have previously set up standalone companies in order to run a business that is independent of Town Hall operations.
But the Hackney Council spokesperson, explaining the decision to market HPH as a lettings agency when it is in fact part of the Town Hall’s housing department, said: “Hackney Priority Homes provides a range of options for landlords that a lettings agency normally would, from tenant-finding through to full management.
“It was referred to as a lettings agency because this is how most people would understand its function.”
The Town Hall is currently asking the borough’s estate agents to scrap letting fees for private renters, ahead of the government introducing a full ban.
Only two agents, Margo & Co and Julian Reid, have so far signed up to the scheme, which has been running for over a month.
A spokesperson for the Town Hall confirmed that HPH is not signed up to the scheme “as it is not a private lettings agency and it does not charge fees to tenants”.