A millionaire property developer rakes in huge profits from tiny shed-sized flats rented out to vulnerable homeless families by councils. Mario Carrozzo’s “shoebox” homes are so small you could nearly fit three of them into his GARAGE.His £164,000 Ferrari is parked up in a spacious, 50-square-meter building. Meanwhile, tenants are being packed into the flats he converts from grim old offices. The tiniest measure 18 square meters – the same as some sheds. The cramped homes, described as “inhumane” and “worse than dog kennels” are used by councils to house homeless families with children. One mum told the Sunday Mirror she fears her place is so small her baby does not have the room to learn to crawl.
Mr. Carrozzo founded the Caridon Group – the company behind the flats – in 2009. It was reportedly paid almost £7.8m in housing benefit by London councils in 2016-17 alone. Accounts show the 2018 value of all of his investment properties was £113m. Profit for the year was £11.2m. Mr. Carrozzo – whose spokesman says he has won accolades for helping to beat the housing crisis – lives in a £5m sprawling six-bed home in Surrey. The mansion, once owned by a Premier League footballer, has three sitting rooms, a cinema, gym, spa, tennis court, pool and games room with bar. It’s a far cry from the flats his property empire is built on. At Templefields House in Harlow, Essex – a two-story block containing 180 flats – conditions are described as “terrible”.
The Odells, a family of four, are squeezed into one of the tiniest. Mum Sophie said of her 18-square-meter unit: “My bed is in my living room. When I go to the toilet, I see my son. “His bed is in my kitchen area and my daughter’s cot is in the living area. I and my partner sit in the dark from 7pm onwards.” Another tenant told us: “My daughter is five and still sleeps with her mum. Conditions are terrible.” He said Caridon receives £600 a month – the cost of his rent – from the Government for housing benefit. He added: “They are making a killing.
Tenants are just as horrified by living conditions at one of Caridon’s biggest blocks, Terminus House. The nine-story ex-office building is on top of a car park in Harlow and is converted into more than 200 flats. Sophie, 23, who moved into a one-room flat there over a year ago, and has a three-month-old baby, said: “It is so small my baby won't be able to learn to crawl."He spends 100 percent of the time on the bed as there’s not enough floor space. It’s sad someone with enough money to live in a mansion lets tenants live in shoeboxes
Developers have been accused of exploiting a change in rules to turn offices into flats. Under “permitted development rights”, office-to-residential conversions do not require planning permission. And while national space standards state a one-person home should be a minimum of 37 square meters, this has not been compulsory since 2013. The practice of housing homeless families in B&Bs, cramped old offices, and even shipping containers was branded “a scandal” last week by Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield. But Caridon said it’s the councils who put families in the flats. A spokesperson said Mr. Carrozzo had won awards and accolades for the accommodation Caridon provides and its help in easing the “housing crisis”.They added: “The vast majority of people moving into our buildings are very happy with the accommodation, which is intended for individuals."Sadly, local authorities refer to a large number of families to us... These families often have nowhere else to go.”Harlow Council Leader Mark Ingall said the local authority houses tenants temporarily in a “very small number” of homes at Templefields House, while other councils use Terminus House. He said the developments met standards set by the Housing Act and Shelter guidelines but admitted they are “problematic”.He said: “This situation arises directly from the national policy of Permitted development rights which I have called on the Government to scrap urgently."