David Pilditch, Express, December 28, 2017
A family of Somali refugees are living in a £2.2million mansion thought to be one of Britain’s most expensive council houses.
Muriidi Abati, 57, and his wife Maryan Mohamed, 44, have lived in the Georgian townhouse with their seven children, aged between eight and 23, for 15 years.
The four-storey townhouse could be rented out privately for £900 a week but cleaner Mr Abati, who earns £7 an hour, pays just £90 to Islington Council in north London.
Mrs Mohamed said: “We’re very lucky and grateful to have this house. It’s sad there are not enough houses for everyone.”
But critics said it was “ridiculous” the refugees were given “a home for millionaires” while many families are forced to live in squalor.
The property is located in an exclusive area, close to the world-famous Sadler’s Wells theatre
John Bickley, Ukip immigration spokesman, said: “Councils have a duty to optimise their tax-payer-funded assets for the benefit of all residents. Letting out multimillion pound houses or flats for peppercorn rent is a poor return on such assets.
“They should be sold and the returns invested in affordable social housing that benefits a larger number of residents.”
The property includes a basement games room with a state-of-the-art 50-inch flat screen TV, while the living room has two large leather sofas and a massive leather chair.
It is situated in Islington’s Clerkenwell district – a sought-after area boasting Michelin-starred restaurants and trendy bars and home to the world-famous Sadler’s Wells theatre and Smithfield Market.
X Files actress Gillian Anderson, 49, sold a six-bedroom home there for £3.6million earlier this year.
Average property prices in the borough stood at £774,923 last year, with terraced houses selling for around £1.3million.
Last year Islington Council let just 1,250 properties, housing about seven per cent of the 18,000 families on its waiting list.
On its website, the council says: “Regrettably, even people in the greatest need often face a delay of several years before they get housed.”
The property is close to many upmarket pubs and eateries in the Exmouth Market area
And it warns: “It is very unlikely that you will be offered a council home as there is far more demand than supply.”
Despite the huge backlog, the council says it aims to build just 500 new homes over the next four years.
Refugees can qualify as a priority for housing if a local council deems them to be “vulnerable” under the Housing Act 1996.
Although refugee status is not listed as a specific vulnerability, officials can include this under the “special reason” category.
For several years London councils – including Islington – have been offering homeless families accommodation hundreds of miles out of the capital, where rents are cheaper and there is more availability.
A neighbour of the Abati family said he was also a council tenant, as were many others in the street.
The man, who did not want to be named, said his home was worth up to £3million.
A similar double-fronted property to the Abati’s on the street recently sold for £2.18million.
Another local, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said: “It really is ridiculous that the council are putting families into homes that only multimillionaires can afford to live in.
“Most people I know who work are mired in debt and can barely pay their bills.”
Other councils and housing associations have been selling off houses which have rocketed in value to help tackle the housing crisis.
In September, a former council house with one of the finest views in Cornwall sold for £1.44million.
The three-bed property overlooking Porthmeor Beach at St Ives went under the hammer at auction in London.
Its former owners, a housing association, said the proceeds would be ploughed into affordable housing.
In 2013, a 200-year-old Grade II-listed property close to Borough Market in south London was sold at auction for £2.96million.
The house was auctioned by Southwark Council to raise money for social housing in the area.