Kent council-owned property agents awarded £500,000 contract

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Appointment of property management company could signal the start of a sell-off of council assets. By BARRATT HOLMES, housing correspondent

Croydon’s bankrupt council – which is in the middle of a spending ban – has awarded a £500,000 contract to a company to manage its property portfolio.

Gen2 Property was set-up by Kent County Council, and is based at their Maidstone offices. Coincidentally, a decade ago, Katherine Kerswell, Croydon’s interim chief executive, was managing director of Kent CC.

The appointment of Gen2 could signal the beginning of the fire sale of Croydon-owned property assets – even including the council offices, Fisher’s Folly – as Kerswell and her colleagues attempt to balance the books, which have a £66million covid-sized hole in the budget this financial year.

Other notable property assets on the council’s books include Davis House, the office block next to the Flyover and the High Street, the Colonnades centre off the Purley Way, and the Croydon Park Hotel.

Gen2’s brief might even extend to assessing the value of a number of smaller sites, earmarked for development by Brick by Brick, many with planning permission agreed. The largest of those sites is at College Green, next to the Fairfield Halls, which could prove especially attractive to commercial developers as the council has granted permission for 421 flats in a mixed-use scheme where only 16 per cent of the homes have to be “affordable”.

According to a report in Estates Gazette, Gen2 Property “will advise on acquisitions and disposals, as well as strategic asset management for both commercial and residential”.

Croydon interim CEO Katherine Kerswell: used to work at Kent CC

The trade magazine says that the council began the procurement process for property management services last April – five months before Kerswell was parachuted-in to pick up the pieces after Jo Negrini quit as CEO.

The choice of Gen2 will be a blow to the likes of more locally based property agents, such as Stiles Harold Williams, who have worked closely with the council in the past and who manage the portfolio of the borough’s biggest landowners, the Whitgift Foundation.

Gen2 say, with an intriguing use of a conjunction, that they conduct business in “a commercially aware but ethical manner”, as if to suggest that the two things would normally be mutually exclusive. Which perhaps they are…

Estate Gazette reports that, “Gen2 Property will support the council with residential acquisitions for social housing, freehold and leasehold acquisitions and disposals, rent reviews, lease renewals and lettings. It will also provide general valuation, commercial estate management, development consultancy and strategic property advice.”

Their contract, to a maximum value of £500,000, is for three years, with an option to extend for a further 12 months.

Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: £36m Brick by Brick ‘risk’ helped to trigger Croydon’s S114

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