Somali asylum seeker family given £2m house… after complaining 5-bed London home was ‘in poor area’
Des res: Abdi Nur at the door of the £2million Kensington townhouse that he, his wife and seven children have moved into
A family of former asylum-seekers from Somalia are living in a £2.1million luxury townhouse in one of Britain’s most exclusive addresses at a cost to taxpayers of £8,000 a month.
Abdi and Sayruq Nur and their seven children moved into their three-storey property in a fashionable area of London last month because they didn’t like the ‘poorer’ part of the city they were living in.
Mr Nur, 42, an unemployed bus conductor, and his 40-year-old wife, who has never worked, are now living in Kensington despite the fact that they are totally dependent on state benefits.
They live close to celebrities, including artist Lucian Freud, singer Damon Albarn and designer Stella McCartney, and their home is just minutes from the fashionable Kensington Place restaurant which was a favourite haunt of the late Princess Diana.
The family’s new home is believed to be one of the most expensive houses ever paid for by housing benefit, which is administered by local councils but funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The disclosure that a single family has been paid so much will embarrass Ministers, who last month pledged to rein in Britain’s £20billion-a-year housing benefit bill.
Mr Nur said his former five-bedroom home in the Kensal Rise area of Brent, which cost £900 a week in housing benefit, was suitable for the family’s needs but he said they had felt compelled to move because they did not like living ‘in a very poor area’ and were unhappy with the quality of local shops and schools.
He said he found the new house through a friend who knew the landlord, arranged to rent it through an estate agent, then approached officials at Kensington and Chelsea council who said ‘it would be no problem’ to move.
Rules allow anyone who is eligible for housing benefit to claim for a private property in any part of the country they wish.
The £2,000 per week is paid directly to Mr Nur and his family, who then pay their landlord.
Smart: The Nur family’s new home has five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fully fitted kitchen as is nearby several celebrities’ London homes
Property sources say the house was being advertised locally at a cost of £1,050 per week.
The house is owned by Brophy Group Business Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company whose registered address is a post office box in Liechtenstein.
No one from the firm, which bought the house for £2.1 million in 2007, was available for comment.
Mr Nur said: ‘The new house is good enough and it is near the school and the shops. We need a house this big because we have so many children.
‘The old house was good but the area was not so good. It was a very poor area and there were no buses, no shops and the schools were too far.
‘The old house was four or five bus stops away from the primary school attended by two of my children.
‘Soon, all three of our younger children are going to be at primary school and we can’t take them all on the bus. Now they are going to a school which is just down the road.’
From September, his children will attend a school located just 20 yards from their new front door – which has been rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
They previously attended a school in Kensal Rise which was rated as satisfactory.
‘Bad area': Mr Nur said their former home in Brent matched their family’s needs, but they didn’t like living in a ‘poor’ part of London
But Mr Nur said his neighbourhood also had other advantages. ‘I like the neighbours and there does not seem to be much crime.’
He added: ‘They have very full shops here and they are still open at 2am. Unlike at Kensal Rise, where they closed at 7pm or 8pm.’
Mr Nur, who lost his £6.50-an-hour job as a bus conductor 18 months ago, claims officials at Kensington and Chelsea council said they ‘didn’t care’ about his decision to move into the borough, which they said was ‘not a problem’.
The family’s three-storey property, which dates from the 1840s, has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully fitted kitchen and a garden.
The family’s living room, which boasts a large bay window, is dominated by a 50in LG flatscreen TV. It also has two large black leather sofas, two elaborate rugs and lush houseplants.
Neighbours of the family last night expressed their shock at the amount of housing benefit being claimed.
Nigel Melville, 65, a company director, said: ‘To be paying that much out in housing benefit is ridiculous – it’s too much. I suppose they had to be housed somewhere, but it’s an awful lot of money.’
Mr Nur worked for the Red Cross in Somalia and married his wife in 1993.
The couple subsequently fled their homeland because of civil war and were granted asylum in Britain in 1999.
The couple’s four oldest children, who are aged between 12 and 16, were all born in Somalia. The youngest three children were born in Britain.
Mr Nur last night acknowledged the family was lucky to have the new home, but he insisted his family ‘were no better or no worse off than anyone else’.
He also insisted he was doing his best to find a job.
‘I am looking for a job. I am taking a course to train me in how to get a job. I would like any job. Anything in food production or warehouses would be fine.’
The current housing benefit system was overhauled by the last government in April 2008. Labour Ministers introduced new caps on the amount claimants could receive, depending on the size and location of the property.
But instead of bringing costs down, the new system encouraged many landlords to raise rents to the level of the maximum allowable.
The new government has announced further sweeping changes to the housing benefit system, which will come into effect next April.
The new rules mean claimants living in a four or five-bedroom house will no longer be able to claim more than £400 a week.
The changes have led to warnings that thousands of families will be forced out of existing homes into cheaper properties.
But critics say the changes are essential because of mounting concern about the size of some individual claims, particularly in London.
Earlier this year, it emerged that Essma Marjam, a single mother of six, was being paid nearly £7,000 a month so that she could live in a five-bedroom villa in Maida Vale.
In December, Francesca Walker, a mother-of-eight who also lived in Kensington and Chelsea, defended her £90,000-a-year housing benefit claims for a £2 million villa in Notting Hill.
She said the family were completely justified in living there because the council could not find a big enough property.
The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea last night declined to comment on the specific circumstances of the Nur family’s claim.
The council said it had a responsibility to meet the needs of claimants who were eligible for benefits and was powerless to stop people moving into private accommodation in the area.
A spokesman said: ‘We have been saying for some years now that the way in which the maximum level of housing benefit is calculated is flawed and we welcome the Government’s new changes which begin next year.
‘The sums of money that many families claim for housing in the capital and elsewhere is an example of an unreasonably generous benefits system which is open to abuse.’
A spokesman for Brent Council said: ‘Households, whether they are claiming benefits or are in work, are able to make their own arrangements in terms of renting privately, as long as they can find a landlord with a suitable property.
‘This includes decisions about where they live.’
<font face=”comic sans ms” color=”#4040ff” size=”5″>Barry Reed</font>