Coun­cil’s help for Wok­ing­ham fam­ily fea­tured in BBC show

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

A BBC doc­u­men­tary fo­cus­ing on peo­ple who abuse coun­cil homes had a good news story to tell, thanks to a Wok­ing­ham hous­ing com­pany.

The day­time pro­gramme Coun­cil House Crack­down last week fea­tured the story of Emma Jones and her fam­ily af­ter they moved into Phoenix Av­enue ear­lier this year. And un­like many of the sto­ries fea­tured in the pro­gramme, this was not about ben­e­fit fraud or il­le­gal sub-let­ting but about how the coun­cil’s hous­ing poli­cies are help­ing res­i­dents get into qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The de­vel­op­ment is man­aged by Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil-owned com­pany Wok­ing­ham Hous­ing Ltd (WHL), who said they were proud to fea­ture in the pro­gramme.

The fea­ture fo­cuses on fam­i­lies who strug­gle to af­ford rent.

The doc­u­men­tary said that Emma Jones and part­ner lived in a rel­a­tive's con­verted garage, but that had to change when they had a baby.

Her bed­room was smaller than a box room, had no win­dows and in­cluded the home's fuse boxes

“It’s hor­ri­ble know­ing that you’ve got this lit­tle per­son that’s fully de­pen­dent on you and you’re not giv­ing them what they need,” Ms Jones told the pro­gramme.

The work­ing cou­ple ini­tially felt that they couldn't turn to the coun­cil for help, but joined the so­cial hous­ing list. They were vis­ited for an as­sess­ment.

Ms Jones said: “The lady from Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil was quite shocked to see what we were liv­ing in.”

The fam­ily were treated as pri­or­ity case and now live in Phoenix Av­enue, built on the site of the for­mer Eus­tace Cres­cent.

The fam­ily is pay­ing an in­ter­me­di­ate rent, which is typ­i­cally set at 80% of mar­ket rent lev­els. The com­pany said that this en­ables peo­ple that would not nor­mally get an of­fer of ac­com­mo­da­tion, be­cause their cir­cum­stances would not give them as much pri­or­ity as say some­one who is home­less, but who nonethe­less need a lit­tle bit of help to af­ford de­cent hous­ing in the Bor­ough.

Ms Jones said: “I was so over­whelmed... I didn't think that nice houses like this were avail­able via the coun­cil.

“All I kept think­ing was So­phie's go­ing to have a bed­room with a win­dow that we can open up, she's go­ing to have light.

“Now she has what she needs, it’s health­ier for her, it’s bet­ter.

“Be­cause of the coun­cil, they’ve given to us, and we're just so grate­ful.”

Pre­sen­ter Michelle Ack­er­ley said: “The im­pact a de­cent, af­ford­able home can have on a young fam­ily is life-chang­ing.”

WHL Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Bill Flood also fea­tured on the pro­gramme and spoke of the im­por­tance of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in­ter­ven­ing in the hous­ing mar­ket.

He said: “Mar­ket so­lu­tions do not pro­vide homes that are af­ford­able for a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of lo­cal peo­ple, es­pe­cially in ar­eas of ex­cep­tion­ally high prop­erty prices like Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough.

“In in­stances such as Phoenix Av­enue, Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil are able to sub­sidise af­ford­able hous­ing through the pro­vi­sion of free land and fi­nan­cial sub­sidy in the form of cap­i­tal to en­able de­vel­op­ments like these to hap­pen.”

And speak­ing after­wards, Cllr Pauline Jor­gensen, Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­ber for Hous­ing, said: “We recog­nised that Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough needed more af­ford­able hous­ing and set up our coun­cil owned Hous­ing Com­pa­nies a cou­ple of years ago to help in­crease the sup­ply.

“I am pleased that they are now pro­duc­ing sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of high qual­ity af­ford­able houses, such as those in Phoenix Av­enue, to help res­i­dents, such as Emma and her fam­ily, get a home of their own.”

The episode (se­ries 4, episode 5) of Coun­cil House Crack­down is avail­able to view on BBC iPlayer un­til Oc­to­ber 12 at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

Michelle Ack­er­ley is the pre­sen­ter of Coun­cil House Crack­down. The BBC show fea­tured a Wok­ing­ham fam­ily who had been helped by Wok­ing­ham Hous­ing

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