Saturday 5 December 2015

Homeless in a Year

In November 2016, the Barking & Dagenham Council have decided, in their infinite wisdom, to knock down a series of flats on the Gascoigne Estate.  Our flat happens to be within that series.  We are private renters - some of our neighbours own their flats, others are council tenants.  All the council flats were recently given brand new bathrooms and kitchens.  Now they are all to be demolished so that a regeneration scheme can be put into place whereby the council will be building....flats.

If you are a council tenant the council will give you a couple of grand, pay for your moving costs and find you new council housing.  If you own the flat the council will buy it from you - happy days.  If you are private renters like us then, basically, jog on.

So let's review our options.  Our rent is actually ridiculously low for which we are eternally grateful to our landlady however it does mean that as we look for a new place to live we are practically outpriced everywhere.  When I rented a single room in a shared house I payed almost £500 which is the same amount we pay for our two bedroom flat.  I know.  Extremely lucky.  To rent a two bedroom flat in Barking & Dagenham will cost you about a grand.  Strike one.

To be eligible for council housing you have to claim benefits or be at risk.  We don't qualify for any benefits (bar child support) because hubby has a decent job.  We're not at risk because neither of us are abused or disabled.  The council might decide to put us at the bottom of their council house list, if we're fortunate.  Last time I checked the number of people waiting for council housing in the Barking & Dagenham area was about 14.000.  Strike two.

Why not get on the property ladder you ask.  Well . .  it's that pesky deposit.  When you live hand to mouth - month in, month out, it's difficult to save up £50 let alone £20,000.  The bank were extremely polite when they told us we could get a mortgage for £158,000.  If we look real hard, we might be able to find a one bedroom flat above a takeaway for that.  Certainly not a two bedroom flat and with a minimum of three and maximum of five people needing an abode then a one bedroom isn't really going to cut the mustard.  Strike three.

The government's Help To Buy scheme is available.  They will give you up to 20% of your mortgage and you pay nothing for the first 5 years.  Then they want repayments.  An estimate we received based on a £200,000 house was a mortgage around £800 per month with an additional £200 payment each month after 5 years.  Point one - we can't afford that much mortgage in the first place and point two - in five years time I doubt very much our wages will be robust enough to take on that additional payment.  So why not just sell up in five years.  Well.... the government will still take their slice and then once we've repaid the mortgage we could potentially be in the negatives and we still need somewhere to live.  It's not an option I feel remotely comfortable with.  Strike four.

Barking and Dagenham have very helpfully set up a affordable housing scheme for those people who can't afford to buy yet don't qualify for council housing.  Hoorah you say.  After a lengthy paperwork finding mission to register and become eligible we discovered that two bedroom flats on the scheme are £960 a month.  Hardly affordable.  Strike five.

Share to buy then - what about that one.  Two bedroom properties in the share to buy scheme in the Barking and Dagenham area start at about a grand a month with 500 on rent and 500 on mortgage. To be eligible for share to buy in a different borough you have to have lived there for a couple of years before you can apply so no opportunity to move to a cheaper borough.  Strike six.

Surely if the Council is making you homeless they have to rehouse you, you may ask.  Apparently they are under no obligation to do anything until we have the eviction notice in our hands with literally nowhere to go.  Then they can put us in a hostel.  I am not living in a hostel.  Not with my baby boy.  Please.

The key issue here is lack of money and high property prices.  Get better jobs?  I confess I don't work and yes, a second income would be amazing but who will look after the little man?  Nursery - right - at about a grand a month for full time care.  That would probably be the bulk of my wage.  Nothing left for contributing towards housing costs plus I don't see my family anymore.  Hardly a solution.   Plus with a husband who works a five-week shift pattern with different days off each week having him look after the wee one isn't feasible either.  I could work nights.  But with a toddler who no longer sleeps in the daytime and demands a lot of one-to-one, how long would it be before I burnt out?  Perhaps I am just finding excuses, I don't know.

In the New Year we will be trying to move.  We have to consider hubby's ability to get to work and public transport links in order to go pick up his children.  And yes - we also have no car.  That is an unaffordable luxury.  Early indicators show that there are flats available to rent for £650 a month in the Southend area which puts us closer to the children with a viable transport link for hubby's job. The only issue now is to find an additional £150 a month.  We could always take it out of the food budget - who needs to eat anyway?

Looks like 2016 is going to be a fabulous year.

Image result for flat demolition barking


  1. Is there anything we can do? Petitions or anything?

    1. I wish there was but the regeneration scheme for the Gascoigne Estate is fully approved and gathering momentum. Unfortunately we are the few wee ants stuck in the treadmill of change.