Why there’s no hope for my son’s overcrowded family

An Enfield grandmother despairs at the plight of her overcrowded family

Alma Estate in Ponders End is being demolished and replaced with a larger mixed estate, but with fewer homes available for social rent
Alma Estate in Ponders End is being demolished and replaced with a larger mixed estate, but with fewer homes available for social rent

A home is a place where children should be able to live comfortably and a place where they can have a good quality of life.

My three grandchildren – two boys aged five and ten, and a girl of eight – are forced to share a tiny bedroom to sleep, study and play. But Enfield Council has told us there is no hope of my son’s family being offered the three-bedroom property they need before the children grow into adults.

This is because the children’s parents have “insufficient points” to allow for a transfer to a larger property, even in the next 15 years.

The law states that children of opposite genders should, from the age of ten, not be forced to share a bedroom, and that such situations are deemed to be overcrowding.

The reason why my son’s family are in this situation is because of the sorry situation with the lack of three-bedroom social housing properties in the borough. The only route out, the council says to my son, is for the family to give up their tenancy and move into an insecure and expensive private-rent home. With the current cost-of-living crisis and rapidly rising rents, they simply cannot do this.

My son’s family have already tried the ‘Home Swapper’ website, a mutual exchange service for social housing tenants, but they have experienced nothing but time-wasters. The council itself seems short on ideas on how to incentivise those living in under-occupied council homes to swap with those in overcrowded homes.

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I have been hearing the same old tired discussion about the lack of council homes for 20 years because I myself, together with my three children, were forced to wait seven years to escape temporary accommodation. Since then, the wait to be housed has more than doubled, as the stock decreases and the population rises. New private builds go up all the time, but very few projects include any substantial amounts of social rent accommodation. This situation seems to have become an accepted norm and is far from unacceptable for a ‘first world’ country in the 21st Century.

Nowadays, the term ‘affordable housing’ is bandied about all the time, but the reality is that these homes are usually a far cry from being affordable for people on a low or even average income.

It seems that those in power have forgotten why council housing was originally built, who it was built for, and what it was supposed to achieve; instead nowadays it seems that people waiting on housing registers are an afterthought, only to be considered for very small numbers of properties built alongside private housing. These meagre numbers barely make a dent on the ever-growing council waiting list – it is a shameful indictment on our society.

If this is a country that claims to care about children, a place where every child is supposed to matter, why in 2022 are children still being forced to live without dignity in poor, overcrowded conditions? Since the Covid-19 pandemic, poor mental health has become an even bigger issue for our children, so we must return to prioritising their wellbeing. This involves the provision of a basic need; a decent home for them and their families at a truly affordable rent.

While the building of social housing has declined, it has mirrored the decline in the quality of life for children such as my own grandchildren. What we need is a shake-up of the current housing policy and a genuine desire from government to care about and provide for people who just don’t happen to be rich.

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