Episode 12 The Housing Enforcers


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Episode 12

Consumer programme. Matt Allwright travels to Kent to join housing officers on an estate inspection to tackle antisocial behaviour.


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Transcript


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As soon as we opened the door, there were flies everywhere.

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'Everyone deserves a safe place to live.'

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So you've got a choice of the tomahawk or the bayonet.

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'But with rents rising and demand increasing,

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'it's getting harder and harder to find a secure place to call home.'

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A little bit concerned about what's happening here.

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'I'm Matt Allwright, and I'm back with the Housing Enforcers.'

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That worries me a bit there, look.

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-We've got the biggest stinging nettles in the world.

-Yeah.

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'I'm on the front line

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'with those fighting for the right to decent housing...'

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The amount of money they owe is in excess of £100,000.

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SHOUTING

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'..as local councils and housing associations

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'battle problem properties in slum conditions...'

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Hyde Housing - is there anyone in there?

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'..as they deal with dodgy landlords...'

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He just said he was selling the house.

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-When did he tell you that?

-A couple of weeks ago.

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'..nightmare neighbours...'

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-She doesn't like you.

-She hates me.

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-Would you want either side evicted?

-No.

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'..and everything in between...'

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There was a shed here, look. There's the base for it.

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'..to help those in need of a happy and healthy home.'

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Doesn't leave you with a good feeling, though.

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It's a tough job.

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'Today, I'm on the trail of some antisocial behaviour

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'that's making residents' lives a misery...'

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These little glowsticks.

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-What's all that about?

-They can be an indicator of drug use.

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'A dilapidated house gets a much-needed makeover

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'after 40 years of filth...'

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I think they've never really reported issues with the property,

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so I think they were going to lose their home,

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and so they kept quiet about some of the problems that they had.

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'An empty house is in need of urgent attention....'

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If I was that one, I'd be really quite concerned about this,

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cos you can see,

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it looks like the house is actually starting to depart...

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-That's right.

-..from the party wall.

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'..while in Wiltshire, a pregnant couple

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'are facing an uncertain future.'

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I'm sitting here looking around, and I can see no carpets on the floor,

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I can see stuff in boxes.

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How come you've not unpacked here and settled?

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Finding a suitable place to call home for you and your family

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has never been harder, especially for those on a restricted budget.

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But low rent shouldn't mean your house doesn't live up

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to the same basic standards as everyone else's.

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Fortunately, there is a group of men and women

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who are out on the front line battling on your behalf

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against bad and dangerous living conditions.

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They are the Housing Enforcers.

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When it comes to maintaining a social housing property,

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tenants are expected to take care of the usual wear and tear,

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but anything more than just a bit of Sunday morning DIY,

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and it should be reported to the council or housing association.

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Simple in theory, not always straightforward in practice.

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It's a situation that Stroud Council housing officer Elaine

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and trainee Zoe are familiar with.

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They're visiting a house that's undergoing

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some much-needed modernisation after it fell into serious disrepair.

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And today they're meeting with long-term tenant Sharon,

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who lives at the property with her mum,

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nearly 80, and sadly, in bad health.

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The house wasn't in very good condition,

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and Elaine and Zoe stepped in, and said,

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"Right, we'll do it all,"

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so right from the word go, they've been helping me,

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ever since day one.

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This is the first time I've been inside since we left.

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The pair, who've lived there for over 40 years,

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have been moved temporarily into a nearby council property

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until their house is ready.

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They're a lovely family, but I think they've never really

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reported issues with the property, so I think they always thought

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that they were going to lose their home, and so they kept quiet

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about some of the problems that they had,

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where they needn't have.

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It was very damp.

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A lot of the woodwork had rotted,

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so as soon as they try to do anything, it was just falling apart.

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-Getting there, aren't we?

-Yeah, it's nice!

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'It means loads to me,'

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but even more, it's for my mum more.

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Everything for my mum.

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You know, just being here means everything to her.

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I went to school down there, she goes to that church,

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all her friends, every single thing.

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-Her life.

-Her whole single life, everything is here.

-Yeah.

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We moved in and we didn't have anything at all, one chair,

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a cardboard box, that's all we had.

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Although Sharon and her mum may have started with very little,

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it's clear the house means an awful lot to them,

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and they've really made it their home,

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even though it's not always been easy.

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It's been quite stressful, obviously, because Mum...

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..can't do a lot at her age, obviously,

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you know, so a lot of it's been down to me.

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I've been brought up with a single-parent family,

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so she did everything, that's why I hope to have this done.

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As the house hadn't been maintained for nearly half a century,

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it was in quite a state.

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Finally, fearing for her mum's health,

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Sharon contacted the council to ask for help,

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and work began to put things right.

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We've literally re-plastered, and new woodwork everywhere,

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new kitchen, new bathroom, everything.

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It's clear their efforts have made a real difference,

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not just to the property, but to Sharon, too.

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And now that the council's home improvements are nearly finished,

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it's time for Sharon to start tackling

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the tricky task of deciding on the decorating.

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And that would tie nicely in with the grey there, won't it?

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That's what I thought, but I wasn't sure...

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'She's just a bit unsure on her colour choices'

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of her walls and her carpets, and everything,

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so I suggested that she came to the property

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to get a sneak preview of what we've been up to, as well.

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I love it, even without any paint on the walls!

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THEY LAUGH

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But it's not just Sharon who's enjoying the experience.

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What colour are we going for in here?

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-This one?

-Yeah.

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Normally, in the major refurbishment side of things,

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we don't really get any interaction with tenants, to be truthful.

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We get the property as the keys are being handed in, empty -

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we never really get to see who moves in afterwards,

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so to actually deal with someone whose home it is,

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it's great.

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Looking to see where furniture goes.

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It's all right, she's not doing a rain dance!

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THEY LAUGH

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'We've got to know Sharon and the family,'

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so we know what they like, and they've, in a way, done us a favour,

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letting us get in and do the work.

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Now that the property is in a good condition,

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it will provide a safe and healthy place to live,

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not only for this tenancy, but for those in the future.

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-Looking good. I'm so glad you like it.

-Yeah.

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For now, Sharon and her mum are looking forward to moving back in,

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and turning their newly-updated house back into their home.

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It'll mean everything to her when we come back cos her whole life's here,

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like the church over there, all her friends, you know.

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So, yeah.

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She can't wait to come back.

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Neither can I!

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We'll be catching up a little bit later,

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when Sharon and her mum have moved back in.

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We've come back now to see how we've changed her lifestyle

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and her attitude towards the property.

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Hiya! Come on in.

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So hopefully all's going to be well.

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Antisocial behaviour can have a huge effect on you, your home

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and the local community.

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Whether it's rubbish dumped on your doorstep

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or rowdy behaviour from neighbours,

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it's often the housing officers that are first on the scene

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to try and resolve the problem,

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usually by good old-fashioned detective work and peace-making.

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'Today I'm in West Malling, Kent,

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'accompanying Shola and Nic from Hyde Housing Association

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'on a visit to a local housing scheme.'

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Hope you've all got your seatbelts on!

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'We're off to investigate reports of some worrying activities

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'on the estate.'

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This is one of our schemes that was developed and handed back to us

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about 2007.

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So, why are we going there today - is there a specific reason?

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Last week, our colleagues in property services -

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this is the team who deal with our repairs and maintenance -

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picked up on a couple of issues.

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Signs that we had someone who was rough-sleeping in the communal area.

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So when you say communal area, is this a hallway - where is it?

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This is within a block, it's an entrance hall, it's the stairwells,

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it's underneath the stairwell, and it's on different landings as well,

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so it is affecting people as they come and go from the block.

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I mean, there's no responsibility, as far as Hyde is concerned,

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towards the individual,

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but that person might need a little bit of help and support.

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Is that something that you do,

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or would you leave that down to the local authority?

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One of the things we do pick up on in our job as housing officers

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and being a social landlord, is signposts,

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-and people who have varying levels of vulnerabilities.

-Yeah.

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We do a lot of that, signposting people to agencies

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where they can get the support.

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It's reckoned there are more than double the number of rough sleepers

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on our streets compared to 2010.

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Rising rents and house prices and Government cuts to services

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are often cited as reasons for this rise,

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but clearly, bedding down in a stairwell

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is not going to be a long-term solution for anyone.

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But before Shola and Nic can offer any assistance

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to the mystery rough sleeper, they're going to have to find them.

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The initial signs aren't good.

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In fact, they're downright disturbing.

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A bit of paper there, someone's written...

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what appears to be "drugs" on there.

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Someone's just taken a sheet of A4, and written the word "drugs" on it.

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So, why would they do that?

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That, for me, has possible concern that there is somebody

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who is actually dealing drugs in here, and this is an indication,

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because as you see yourself there's a lot of entrances,

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so it could actually be an indicator that this is the block.

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It's not very subtle, is it?

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It's not very subtle, but equally,

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it could be a frustrated resident indicating there are concerns

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-that there's drugs.

-That this is where they're selling drugs? OK.

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So, this isn't a Hyde notice,

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and despite them not wanting us to remove it, we will be.

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'Either way, it does back up Shola and Nic's concerns

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'about antisocial behaviour here on the estate,

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'and after that rather sinister welcome,

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'we can start our hunt for our reported rough sleeper.

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'Nic thinks she might have found a clue.'

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Has it been gummed up?

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It has got something in it, which would imply...

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This is weird, isn't it, because you can't get access to this now?

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No - you can see there's something

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that looks like it's been pushed in there.

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-Bit of paper or something.

-Yeah.

-Someone's calling this home.

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But then if you've fitted a lock on the other side,

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and you were in there...

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Oh, hello.

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So something was definitely in the way, then.

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-OK, well, this is...

-It's interesting, isn't it?

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So, the light's jammed on.

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'Well, it hasn't shed any light on our search,

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'but as we continue looking around the estate for the rough sleeper...'

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Letterboxes have been vandalised.

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'..we discover more evidence of that antisocial behaviour.'

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Someone's clearly dumped that.

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So what's the process of picking this stuff up?

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Is there a regular inspection of these areas,

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or does it just happen as and when somebody calls something in?

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We have got...

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Well, we do spot checks, but in addition to that,

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we've got quarterly block inspections,

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so once every three months, we're out here,

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our residents know the date when we come and do a general inspection

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of the entire block from top to bottom.

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I mean, there's a few bits that need their attention.

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'The hunt for our rough sleeper continues.'

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What's going on there, then?

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I mean, this is locked, it seems to be locked.

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It seems to be secure.

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It seems to be, so that's reassuring.

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Well, you'd be going well to sleep in there.

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'But as we move on to the next block, we turn up more evidence...'

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What are they?

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'..which may relate to that rather disconcerting notice

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'that we found earlier.'

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These are strange, aren't they?

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These look like these little glowsticks, or something.

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Quite worrying that they've been burnt.

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-They're burnt on one end.

-Yeah.

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-What's all that about?

-Again, that can be an indicator of drug use.

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If they're burning, they can use that to mix it,

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so we have, obviously...

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where we see teaspoons and evidence of teaspoons being burnt,

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sometimes we get other bits that have been used to move it.

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'This estate is home to many families,

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'and you can see why Nic and Shola are so concerned

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'by what they've discovered.

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'There's still the elusive rough sleeper to track down, as well.'

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So, I mean, there's no bed here,

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there's no evidence of anybody living here right now.

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They're probably moving bays.

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-Moving from one to the next, maybe?

-Yeah.

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What we will do, we'll door-knock and speak to a couple of residents

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to try and find out a little bit more about what their experience is,

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if anyone IS found here, then whereabouts they might be.

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A bit of detective work, Shola, going on here.

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'And, later on, our detective work might be paying off.'

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There was a man, I think, who was living in the bin shed.

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Earlier, in Stroud,

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we saw how housing officers were faced with repairing a property

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after 40 years of neglect.

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It was very damp, and a lot of the woodwork was rotten,

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so as soon as they started trying to do anything,

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it was just falling apart.

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And despite the condition of their home,

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tenants Sharon and her mum had found themselves suffering in silence.

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They're a lovely family, but I think they've never really reported issues

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with the property, so I think they always thought

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that they were going to lose their home,

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and so they kept quiet about some of the problems that they had,

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where they needn't have.

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The house was in need of total renovation,

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and the council wasted no time getting to grips with repairs.

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It means loads to me, but it's for my mum more.

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Everything for my mum.

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Now Elaine is back with Mark, a contractor, to check on progress.

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Even though work continues on the roof,

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they're hoping to see some real progress indoors.

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From the start to where we are now,

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it's probably taken six weeks in total -

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that's for total refurbishment inside.

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I've seen every step of the transformation taking place,

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also been working closely with Sharon,

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so that she's sort of gaining trust in us

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that she is coming back to the property.

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We've come back now to see how it's changed her lifestyle

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and her attitude towards the property,

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so hopefully all's going to be well.

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Sharon and her mum were initially nervous of approaching the council

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for help, worried they might lose their home if they made a fuss.

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They seem a lot happier now.

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We're still lucky the house is lovely, aren't we?

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Yes, we are. It's much better now.

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After what it was like.

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-All that mould and cracks in the walls.

-Yeah.

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-It's all gone.

-Nothing for you to fall over now, either, is there?

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No, there isn't, nothing at all.

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-It was terrible, wasn't it?

-Yeah.

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It's clear they can't wait to show off their new home.

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Hiya! Come on in.

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-Thank you!

-Thank you.

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All right? How's it going?

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It's going well, really well.

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-We're really pleased.

-Good.

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-Mum especially.

-Yeah?

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The most obvious change is in the kitchen.

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Didn't have any cupboards to put anything in,

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didn't have any surfaces to put anything on,

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there was massive great cracks in the floor, so...

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It was quite dangerous to walk around,

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and Mum was struggling not to fall over in here.

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-Got the washing machine underneath the sink.

-Yeah.

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-Cos that wasn't in here, either.

-No, that's right, yeah.

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At the time that was stuck out there,

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which was really difficult, as well,

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and all the windowsills just falling apart,

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and all the stuff was just, like, coming out of the walls.

0:16:270:16:30

-All the insulation.

-Onto the sink, and stuff like that, as well,

0:16:300:16:33

it was just really, really horrible.

0:16:330:16:35

Yeah. And your mum's all fine with it?

0:16:350:16:37

Yeah, she loves it, she's just a bit shy, and she just...

0:16:370:16:41

Yeah.

0:16:410:16:43

The house has had a complete renovation.

0:16:430:16:46

Oh, you've got this nice, Sharon, in here.

0:16:460:16:48

-Yeah. Now I've got a few pictures up, and...

-Yeah.

0:16:480:16:50

The living room, which once resembled a building site,

0:16:500:16:53

now looks more like a place you'd be proud to call home.

0:16:530:16:56

-It looks quite nice, doesn't it?

-It's lovely.

-Yeah. It looks good.

0:16:560:16:59

The scale of the renovations has been enormous,

0:16:590:17:01

from the paintwork to the carpets.

0:17:010:17:03

Sharon had been nervous her mum

0:17:030:17:05

wouldn't be happy moving out while the work was carried out,

0:17:050:17:07

but with Elaine and the council's support,

0:17:070:17:10

things seem to have worked out well.

0:17:100:17:11

It took a lot to persuade her.

0:17:110:17:13

But once I persuaded her

0:17:130:17:15

-as soon as we got back, everything would be great...

-Yeah.

0:17:150:17:17

..and now she's back, she loves it.

0:17:170:17:20

Oh, fantastic news.

0:17:200:17:21

-Fantastic.

-Yeah.

0:17:210:17:23

And the good news continues in the bathroom.

0:17:230:17:26

Oh, this is looking good, isn't it?

0:17:260:17:27

-Yeah.

-It was really bad before.

0:17:270:17:30

Yeah, yeah, I remember the black mould and everything, yeah -

0:17:300:17:32

all running down the walls.

0:17:320:17:34

It was really, really bad. We didn't have a shower, either.

0:17:340:17:36

Once again, it's Mum who seems to be enjoying the changes most.

0:17:360:17:41

She loves the bath, the new bath, and stuff.

0:17:410:17:43

-So it really has made a hell of a lot of difference.

-Good.

0:17:430:17:47

Usually renovation jobs like this one

0:17:470:17:49

are fairly straightforward affairs,

0:17:490:17:51

but sometimes councils have to recognise

0:17:510:17:53

that just like every property,

0:17:530:17:55

every resident who lives inside is different.

0:17:550:17:58

Normally these types of jobs, we don't get involved with the tenants.

0:17:580:18:01

The tenants move in after we've done our bits and pieces,

0:18:010:18:05

so, we don't ever get to meet the tenants like we have on this one.

0:18:050:18:09

-It's changed our lives a lot, hasn't it?

-Yeah.

0:18:090:18:11

Just for the better, really.

0:18:110:18:13

-Of course it has.

-Totally, yeah.

-And we can have our mates in.

0:18:130:18:16

Before that we weren't that keen, because the place was such a tip.

0:18:160:18:19

You know, so it's everything to us now.

0:18:190:18:22

-It has changed our life a lot.

-It has.

0:18:220:18:24

-That looks nice in there, very nice.

-Yeah.

0:18:240:18:26

And really, it's a credit to the council

0:18:260:18:29

for spending the money on the property.

0:18:290:18:31

-It makes you feel a lot happier, doesn't it?

-Yeah, it does.

0:18:310:18:34

Couldn't wish for a better outcome - it's made their lives better.

0:18:340:18:37

All been done fantastic.

0:18:370:18:39

I don't have to worry about her having accidents in here

0:18:390:18:43

and falling over and stuff like that now.

0:18:430:18:45

Going from somewhere which was so bad...

0:18:450:18:48

-..to this is a total transformation for me and Mum.

-Mmm.

0:18:490:18:54

We couldn't have expected any better, or wish for more, really.

0:18:540:18:58

Defending our right to a safe place to live

0:19:030:19:05

is the job of housing officers right across the UK.

0:19:050:19:08

Fire service turned up, didn't they?

0:19:080:19:10

There was no need for them!

0:19:100:19:12

-There WAS a fire.

-There was not!

0:19:120:19:14

I'm working alongside the men and women that do exactly that.

0:19:150:19:18

This one's the worst that I've seen.

0:19:180:19:20

The amount of mould is quite shocking, actually.

0:19:200:19:23

Hitting the streets...

0:19:230:19:25

-Hello?

-..finding out what's happening on the front line...

0:19:250:19:27

Warrants have been issued and they can be enforced.

0:19:270:19:30

..as we make sure a house is a fit place to call a home.

0:19:300:19:34

That one there?

0:19:340:19:35

-Oh, look at that!

-There's another one.

-Yeah.

0:19:350:19:37

I now have got somewhere I can call home, and it's permanent.

0:19:380:19:41

That's got to be a good thing.

0:19:410:19:43

Not having any neighbours might be some people's idea of heaven,

0:19:490:19:52

but living next door to an empty house

0:19:520:19:55

can bring another set of problems.

0:19:550:19:57

It's been reckoned that despite a desperate shortage of decent,

0:19:570:20:00

affordable homes across the UK,

0:20:000:20:02

there are a staggering 600,000 properties

0:20:020:20:05

sitting empty in England alone.

0:20:050:20:07

So, local councils are doing their best to get tough

0:20:100:20:12

on derelict properties.

0:20:120:20:14

Here in Croydon, it's the job of dedicated empty homes officer

0:20:170:20:20

Francis Burton to tackle the issue head-on.

0:20:200:20:23

-Hi, Francis.

-Hi, Matt. Good to see you.

0:20:230:20:26

How are you doing?

0:20:260:20:27

I've been to a lot of different councils,

0:20:270:20:29

and I don't think I've ever met one of you!

0:20:290:20:32

Somebody that just does what you do.

0:20:320:20:35

They sometimes mix it up with other things.

0:20:350:20:36

That's right, yeah - it's sometimes seen

0:20:360:20:38

as an environmental health officer's role as well

0:20:380:20:40

to take care of empties.

0:20:400:20:42

Is that because there are more empty properties here,

0:20:420:20:45

or because there is a greater need than there is

0:20:450:20:48

in other parts of the country, or is it a mixture of the both?

0:20:480:20:51

The role sits within the housing department,

0:20:510:20:54

and it recognises that an empty property is a wasted resource,

0:20:540:20:57

and so Croydon said we need somebody within the housing department

0:20:570:21:01

to locate these properties, negotiate with the owner,

0:21:010:21:04

if they can be traced, and bring the properties back into use.

0:21:040:21:06

So it's a housing-driven service.

0:21:060:21:08

With more than 2,000 people currently living

0:21:090:21:12

in temporary accommodation in Croydon alone...

0:21:120:21:14

..top of the hit list for Francis today

0:21:150:21:17

is a terraced house in an appalling state of disrepair.

0:21:170:21:21

This is one that's been empty for a number of years.

0:21:210:21:23

If I just said to you,

0:21:230:21:25

"OK, what do you see immediately wrong with that property?"

0:21:250:21:27

Seen a lot of properties, but this one looks the least lived-in.

0:21:270:21:32

The roof looks in need of repair in all the places

0:21:320:21:34

where it's going to cause problems inside the property.

0:21:340:21:37

It's either been burnt out or had the windows smashed at the top here.

0:21:370:21:41

Have I spotted most of it?

0:21:410:21:43

One of the things that concerns me is this crack

0:21:430:21:45

going through the lintel above the door.

0:21:450:21:47

It does extend all the way up to the party wall.

0:21:470:21:49

So, it certainly needs investigation,

0:21:490:21:52

but that looks like a big structural question mark.

0:21:520:21:55

-That's right. Yes.

-It would need to be addressed

0:21:550:21:57

-before you can even think of getting anyone near that place.

-Yeah.

0:21:570:22:00

'There have been complaints from neighbours

0:22:040:22:05

'about the state of the property,

0:22:050:22:07

'and as we arrive, it's not hard to see why.

0:22:070:22:09

'It stands out like a sore thumb.'

0:22:090:22:11

And you can see, it's a lovely road.

0:22:140:22:18

-I mean, who wouldn't want to live here?

-Yeah.

0:22:180:22:20

'Empty properties like this one aren't just a wasted resource -

0:22:250:22:29

'they can rapidly become a blight on the lives of the whole neighbourhood

0:22:290:22:32

'and it seems Francis isn't the only one at the council

0:22:320:22:35

'having to deal with the fallout here.'

0:22:350:22:37

One of the other things -

0:22:410:22:42

you'll notice empty properties tend to attract a lot of fly-tipping,

0:22:420:22:46

which is why we've got the team here from the neighbourhood safety team,

0:22:460:22:51

who are here to deal with the fly-tipping.

0:22:510:22:54

What have you found so far?

0:22:540:22:56

At the moment, it's household items,

0:22:560:22:57

so we haven't been able to identify specifically where it's come from.

0:22:570:23:01

So, what we're going to do now is we'll call out to our contractors

0:23:010:23:05

and ask them to come and collect it,

0:23:050:23:07

so they'll collect it within the next 48 hours.

0:23:070:23:10

-I'm going to let you do that. Is that all right?

-Yeah, I don't mind.

0:23:100:23:13

Don't take it... I haven't got gloves.

0:23:130:23:15

No, it's fine. You hold on to those.

0:23:150:23:17

They're yours. Cheers!

0:23:170:23:19

You should never share another man's gloves. Maybe next time, eh?

0:23:210:23:24

This is a clear example, though,

0:23:240:23:25

of the need for Francis' specialist role.

0:23:250:23:28

This empty house has already attracted antisocial behaviour,

0:23:280:23:32

and if you times that by the estimated 900

0:23:320:23:34

other unused properties in the area,

0:23:340:23:37

you can see why the council's so keen to tackle the problem.

0:23:370:23:40

Which brings us back to this property.

0:23:410:23:43

It's a heart-breaking sight.

0:23:430:23:45

This was probably once a much-loved and well-cared-for family home.

0:23:450:23:49

But now it's not just neglected -

0:23:490:23:51

it could actually be putting lives at risk.

0:23:510:23:54

So, the path is relatively OK.

0:23:550:23:57

We're safe on the path.

0:23:570:23:58

Yeah. Although there are a danger of tiles falling off

0:23:580:24:02

-in this corner here.

-Right.

0:24:020:24:04

So you do need to be a bit careful,

0:24:040:24:06

and probably here is about as far as it's safe to go.

0:24:060:24:10

-Yeah, look, there's one on the floor there.

-Yeah.

0:24:100:24:12

If I was that one, I'd be really quite concerned about this,

0:24:120:24:15

cos you can see - it looks like the house

0:24:150:24:17

-is actually starting to depart from that party wall.

-That's right.

0:24:170:24:20

Fortunately, if an owner's unwilling or unable to bring an empty property

0:24:240:24:28

back into use, or it's causing a nuisance to neighbours,

0:24:280:24:31

councils have the power to buy it with or without their permission,

0:24:310:24:35

and Francis is already on the case.

0:24:350:24:38

It's already been approved for compulsory purchase.

0:24:380:24:41

The papers are currently with external solicitors

0:24:410:24:46

to make sure that I've ticked all the boxes,

0:24:460:24:48

and everything is in place.

0:24:480:24:50

That should come back within two weeks or so,

0:24:500:24:53

so that everyone is alerted to the fact

0:24:530:24:55

that the property is going to be compulsory-purchased

0:24:550:24:58

on a particular date in the future.

0:24:580:25:00

So, hopefully, it won't be too long before the council can get stuck in

0:25:020:25:05

to turning this sad wreck back into a much-needed family home.

0:25:050:25:09

-The ball's rolling, effectively, isn't it?

-Yeah.

0:25:110:25:14

Notices have got to go in, and make that a place people can live again.

0:25:140:25:17

Well, that property remains sealed.

0:25:200:25:22

Unfortunately, the fly-tipping is continuing,

0:25:220:25:25

but so is the enforcement action,

0:25:250:25:27

so hopefully there should be some resolution in sight.

0:25:270:25:30

With more than 1.2 million people on the social housing waiting list

0:25:370:25:41

in England alone, it's clear that demand for affordable housing

0:25:410:25:44

is still outstripping supply.

0:25:440:25:46

For those tenants in need of accommodation,

0:25:480:25:50

they can apply to be on a local housing register,

0:25:500:25:52

and then bid online for a vacant property.

0:25:520:25:55

Whether they're successful depends very much on their circumstances.

0:25:550:25:58

Today in Wiltshire,

0:26:020:26:03

housing officer Belinda Eastland

0:26:030:26:05

is meeting a young couple to assess their suitability

0:26:050:26:08

for a brand-new property that's just become available.

0:26:080:26:11

So, today we're off to visit Ashley and Richard,

0:26:120:26:16

who are looking for a house closer to Ashley's mother.

0:26:160:26:21

Ashley's feeling rather isolated where she is.

0:26:220:26:24

She needs her support network around her, and I do know that they've been

0:26:240:26:29

through a difficult time.

0:26:290:26:31

For some reason or other, they were faced with homelessness, and Ashley,

0:26:310:26:35

despite being ill at the time,

0:26:350:26:39

chose this property that they're living in now,

0:26:390:26:41

which they've only been in four months,

0:26:410:26:43

because she was worried about becoming homeless,

0:26:430:26:46

but it's not really worked out for her here.

0:26:460:26:48

So, we're going to talk that through today.

0:26:480:26:50

Ashley and her partner Richard are expecting their first child,

0:26:520:26:55

and need a bigger property.

0:26:550:26:57

But with a baby due in a few weeks,

0:26:570:26:59

and the possibility of a house move on the cards,

0:26:590:27:01

Belinda wants to check that a relocation

0:27:010:27:04

won't be too stressful for the couple.

0:27:040:27:06

Hello, White Horse Housing.

0:27:060:27:07

-Come in.

-Thank you.

0:27:070:27:09

So, thank you for meeting with me today.

0:27:090:27:11

That's all right.

0:27:110:27:12

It's a result of you having been matched

0:27:120:27:15

on the Homes for Wiltshire system to this two-bed property

0:27:150:27:18

which you bid for.

0:27:180:27:20

Looking through the application form,

0:27:200:27:22

obviously I can see that you've had mental health problems.

0:27:220:27:25

-Yeah.

-But you're...

0:27:250:27:26

I'm assuming you're feeling well at the moment,

0:27:260:27:28

-cos you're still working?

-This week!

-Yeah, OK.

0:27:280:27:31

Yeah, a lot of people think, always say to me,

0:27:310:27:34

"You work, so you can't be poorly."

0:27:340:27:37

But believe it or not,

0:27:370:27:38

-it's working that balances me out a lot of the time.

-Yeah.

-Mm-hmm.

0:27:380:27:40

And what's your diagnosis, exactly?

0:27:400:27:43

-They say bipolar...

-Yeah.

-..but obviously, there's a lot more tests

0:27:430:27:48

and things that you have to go through.

0:27:480:27:50

So, in terms of how your housing is going to improve your health,

0:27:500:27:56

I'm assuming it's because you're going to be back closer to your mum.

0:27:560:28:00

-Yes.

-Closer to the support network.

0:28:000:28:01

Yeah.

0:28:010:28:03

My greatest thing is support.

0:28:030:28:05

And the thought of being on maternity

0:28:050:28:07

an hour away from the family, I mean, some people might say,

0:28:070:28:10

-"Well, it's an hour," but I don't drive, so it's, you know...

-Yeah.

0:28:100:28:14

-And I think it's five buses to get there.

-Oh, my goodness.

0:28:140:28:17

-From here?

-Yeah!

-OK.

0:28:170:28:19

With no fast or easy way to get to her mum's,

0:28:200:28:23

it's no wonder that Ashley's been left feeling a little bit lonely.

0:28:230:28:27

Belinda's also concerned by signs

0:28:270:28:29

that the couple haven't really settled in their current home.

0:28:290:28:32

So, Ashley, I'm sitting here, looking around,

0:28:320:28:35

and I can see no carpets on the floor.

0:28:350:28:37

-I can see an upended sofa.

-Mm-hmm.

0:28:370:28:40

I can see stuff in boxes.

0:28:400:28:42

What is it that's going on?

0:28:420:28:44

How come you've not unpacked here, and settled?

0:28:440:28:47

There isn't room for anything, for starters.

0:28:470:28:49

-Obviously there's no room to put our second sofa in.

-Mm-hmm.

0:28:490:28:53

But things are in boxes because we literally have nowhere to put it.

0:28:530:28:56

And how do you think you're going to cope?

0:28:560:28:58

Obviously, I can see you're about to have a baby!

0:28:580:29:00

Mm-hmm.

0:29:000:29:01

So, you're in this one-bedroom flat,

0:29:010:29:04

clearly not big enough for you once the baby comes along,

0:29:040:29:07

What do you think will be in place for you then?

0:29:070:29:10

-Obviously you've got the health team through the midwives.

-Yeah.

0:29:100:29:13

-Oh, that's good.

-They offer support.

-OK.

0:29:130:29:15

-My mum, my sister, are the main people I need.

-Yeah.

0:29:150:29:18

-Definitely.

-OK.

0:29:180:29:19

-And Richard.

-OK.

0:29:190:29:21

-Yeah.

-Right.

0:29:210:29:22

Now that Belinda has put her mind at rest,

0:29:240:29:26

they can begin to think about the new house,

0:29:260:29:28

assuming their application goes to plan.

0:29:280:29:30

Speaking of which...

0:29:300:29:32

-I have actually brought some plans today...

-OK.

-..which I can show you,

0:29:330:29:37

and give you a bit of a better idea of the property.

0:29:370:29:40

So, just two of the homes are ours, and therefore rented, OK?

0:29:400:29:44

-Yeah.

-Is it a shell, or are there things put in there?

0:29:440:29:47

-No, there will only be flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.

-Mm-hmm.

0:29:470:29:52

-So, you've got a whole house to carpet.

-Yes.

0:29:520:29:55

The thing is, we can save up for them - that's fine.

0:29:550:29:57

-Definitely.

-Yeah.

0:29:570:29:58

But you've got other priorities, anyway, haven't you?

0:29:580:30:01

You've got the rent to think about, the council tax,

0:30:010:30:03

you've got the utility bills.

0:30:030:30:05

-You know, they're your priorities, aren't they?

-Yeah.

0:30:050:30:07

-So that you can remain in the house.

-Which we're very good at managing.

0:30:070:30:10

-That's one thing we are good with - rent and council tax.

-Yeah.

0:30:100:30:14

-Everything's marked up on a bit of paper.

-Yeah.

0:30:140:30:17

I can see that you're working well together,

0:30:170:30:19

and... You know, you desperately want this to work, don't you,

0:30:190:30:22

and you desperately want to keep the tenancy of that home?

0:30:220:30:24

-We do!

-Yeah, OK.

0:30:240:30:27

I don't want to get your hopes up,

0:30:270:30:28

-because the final decision isn't mine to make.

-Yeah.

0:30:280:30:31

We'll have to wait. We'll have to go through the assessment.

0:30:310:30:34

How do you feel about that?

0:30:340:30:35

I want to be excited, but I'm frightened too.

0:30:370:30:39

-Hopefully I'll have good news, but we'll have to wait and see.

-OK.

0:30:390:30:43

Well, it looks like the foundations are in place for a positive result,

0:30:450:30:48

but the expecting couple will have to be patient

0:30:480:30:50

for a little bit longer.

0:30:500:30:52

-Thank you.

-Bye.

-Bye!

0:30:520:30:54

'If Ashley and Richard are successful

0:30:560:30:58

'in getting this property,'

0:30:580:31:00

it will be a new start for them.

0:31:000:31:02

I can see that, and that's the nice thing about this job, actually -

0:31:020:31:07

being able to give people a new start.

0:31:070:31:10

Later on, we'll find out if Ashley and Richard's dream of a new home

0:31:110:31:15

becomes reality.

0:31:150:31:17

'I'm back in Kent with Hyde housing officers, Nic and Shola.'

0:31:220:31:26

We've been searching for a reported rough sleeper

0:31:260:31:28

here on this local estate.

0:31:280:31:30

'So far, we've failed to find any signs

0:31:300:31:32

'of where they might be sleeping, or even if they're here at all.'

0:31:320:31:35

You'd be going well to sleep in there.

0:31:350:31:37

But we have seen plenty of evidence of antisocial behaviour.

0:31:390:31:43

Someone's just taken a sheet of A4, and written the word "drugs" on it.

0:31:430:31:48

'Rachel is a resident here on the estate,

0:31:500:31:52

'and Nic and Shola are hoping she might be able to point us

0:31:520:31:55

'in the right direction.'

0:31:550:31:56

One of the reasons why we're here today, Rachel,

0:31:570:31:59

it's been brought to our attention that it looks like

0:31:590:32:02

-we've got a rough sleeper in one of the...

-That's right, yeah.

0:32:020:32:04

In one of the cupboards. So, we're not sure which one it is.

0:32:040:32:07

We've been opening them up,

0:32:070:32:09

and there've been signs as we've gone along.

0:32:090:32:10

Have you actually seen...?

0:32:100:32:12

-Once, I saw the man.

-Ah.

0:32:120:32:14

It was a man, I think, that was living in the bin shed...

0:32:140:32:18

-Ah.

-..opposite where I am.

0:32:180:32:19

-Did you recognise this person?

-No. Never seen him before.

0:32:190:32:22

-Is it something you'd never seen?

-Never seen him before, no.

0:32:220:32:25

But there is signs - like you've said, I've seen signs myself.

0:32:250:32:28

'So, there we have it - confirmation there is a rough sleeper on site,

0:32:290:32:33

'and Rachel's also got information about the antisocial behaviour.'

0:32:330:32:37

They have a lot of young children that come along and play,

0:32:370:32:40

and think it's fun to be smashing up people's letterboxes, and stuff.

0:32:400:32:44

-We noticed a lot of damage to the communal letterboxes.

-Yeah.

0:32:440:32:47

But they don't live in this estate.

0:32:470:32:49

Do you know why they come on this estate?

0:32:490:32:51

Just for fun, really, cos there's a lot of litter.

0:32:510:32:53

People dump their fridges, their beds in the bins, and it's really...

0:32:530:32:58

It does make us quite angry, actually.

0:32:580:33:00

-Do you...?

-But they've been there a long time.

0:33:000:33:02

There's, like, a cooker in there, that's been there for over a year.

0:33:020:33:05

-OK.

-It just doesn't go.

0:33:050:33:08

None of the stuff ever leaves.

0:33:080:33:09

The other thing that we've got reports of

0:33:090:33:12

is that there's been drug use.

0:33:120:33:14

Oh, that's quite common, actually.

0:33:140:33:17

There's quite a lot of people that smoke weed,

0:33:170:33:19

and smoke outside the back.

0:33:190:33:21

'So, our chat with Rachel has been really useful.

0:33:210:33:24

'Housing officers can't do it by themselves.

0:33:240:33:27

'It's only by working with tenants

0:33:270:33:29

'that life on this estate is going to improve.'

0:33:290:33:31

I got the feeling that there WAS a sense of pride there,

0:33:310:33:34

or there was at least a sense that she wanted to make things better,

0:33:340:33:37

which was really refreshing, wasn't it?

0:33:370:33:39

But, regrettably, you don't find that cuts across all residents.

0:33:390:33:43

You could find it among a certain group of residents,

0:33:430:33:45

and other groups of residents may not necessarily want to know.

0:33:450:33:48

And what we...

0:33:480:33:49

Our aim as landlords is to actually make sure as many people

0:33:490:33:52

actually abide by that culture.

0:33:520:33:54

'Now we can follow up on that lead

0:33:560:33:57

'about where the rough sleeper has been spotted.'

0:33:570:34:00

I tell you what,

0:34:000:34:01

-I wouldn't mind having a look in that cupboard there.

-Yeah.

0:34:010:34:04

We can have a look.

0:34:040:34:06

Cos that looks like it's had the lock broken off it.

0:34:060:34:09

Is that the bin cupboard again?

0:34:090:34:10

HINGES SQUEAK LOUDLY

0:34:110:34:13

It's a right pickle, isn't it?

0:34:150:34:17

'We may not have found the rough sleeper,

0:34:180:34:20

'but we have found something else.

0:34:200:34:21

'More evidence of antisocial behaviour - fly-tipping.'

0:34:210:34:24

So, this has really built up, hasn't it?

0:34:270:34:28

This is floor to ceiling, almost, isn't it?

0:34:280:34:30

Yeah.

0:34:300:34:32

Stuff has just been chucked here.

0:34:320:34:34

Yeah, we've got tellies here, we've got a bed base...

0:34:340:34:37

Duvet. Pram.

0:34:380:34:40

Well, there's a big clue to who could be responsible for this.

0:34:400:34:45

-Can you see it?

-Have we got a label on a box somewhere?

0:34:450:34:48

No.

0:34:480:34:49

Come on, this is where you've got to use your detective skills here.

0:34:490:34:53

'To be honest, I'd say the writing's on the wall.'

0:34:530:34:56

Come on, then.

0:34:570:34:58

So there, on the wall, we can see somebody being thoroughly dobbed in.

0:34:590:35:04

We've got the name and the number of the flat, and not very politely,

0:35:040:35:09

being asked to put the bags in the bin, expletive.

0:35:090:35:12

Er...

0:35:130:35:15

Yeah.

0:35:150:35:16

It's like putting together a jigsaw.

0:35:160:35:18

What's that?

0:35:200:35:21

-Oh, that was very good.

-Thank you.

0:35:210:35:23

-Just seen what you did there.

-Thank you!

0:35:230:35:25

Tragic, really!

0:35:250:35:26

'And we've still got a piece missing from the puzzle.

0:35:280:35:30

'We haven't managed to track down our rough sleeper.'

0:35:300:35:32

If I was going to be sleeping rough,

0:35:340:35:36

I'd probably choose cycle store over bin store.

0:35:360:35:39

-I think.

-Don't fancy the smell.

-Don't fancy the smell at all.

0:35:390:35:42

'Today hasn't been a total waste of time.

0:35:430:35:45

'Shola and Nic are leaving with plenty of information

0:35:450:35:47

'that could help improve life for residents like Rachel.'

0:35:470:35:50

We've got lots of different issues here.

0:35:520:35:54

We've got the litter, we've got the debris,

0:35:540:35:56

we've got the build-up of rubbish in the bin stores

0:35:560:35:58

that we need to deal with.

0:35:580:35:59

We've got some of the locks damaged, we've got repair issues,

0:35:590:36:02

we've got stuff building up in communal areas.

0:36:020:36:05

We want people to feel proud about where they live,

0:36:050:36:07

and so we need to be getting on top of this.

0:36:070:36:08

We'll also be able to find out a bit more about what the lady was saying,

0:36:080:36:12

about the drug activity,

0:36:120:36:13

so we can start addressing that, and dealing with that.

0:36:130:36:16

By having relationships and getting to know the people on the estate,

0:36:160:36:20

it will help us get more information.

0:36:200:36:22

Well, good detective work, team.

0:36:220:36:24

I think we've been Starsky and Hutch,

0:36:240:36:26

-and I don't know what I am!

-Yes!

0:36:260:36:28

Huggy Bear!

0:36:280:36:29

'Whatever I am, it's good to know that these two are on the case.'

0:36:290:36:33

Well, despite those efforts, the rough sleeper was never found,

0:36:380:36:41

but after the visit,

0:36:410:36:42

repairs have been made and new doors installed to improve security.

0:36:420:36:46

Hyde have also been working with residents

0:36:460:36:48

to help improve life on the estate,

0:36:480:36:50

including better ways to report incidents of antisocial behaviour,

0:36:500:36:54

especially where they involve drugs.

0:36:540:36:57

All of that, hopefully, will help improve life for everyone there.

0:36:570:37:00

Back in Wiltshire,

0:37:060:37:07

housing officer Belinda Eastland was working with young couple

0:37:070:37:10

Ashley and Richard.

0:37:100:37:12

They're about to become parents, and have been waiting to find out

0:37:120:37:14

if they can move to a brand-new home

0:37:140:37:16

before the impending arrival of their new child.

0:37:160:37:19

I can see that you're working well together,

0:37:190:37:22

and you know, you desperately want this to work, don't you?

0:37:220:37:25

-Definitely.

-I don't want to get your hopes up, because the final decision

0:37:250:37:28

-isn't mine to make.

-Yeah.

0:37:280:37:30

Well, four weeks later, and the wait is over.

0:37:320:37:35

Belinda's been given the green light,

0:37:350:37:36

and she's off to meet the couple to show them their new home.

0:37:360:37:39

'Today's the day that we can hand the keys to Richard and Ashley.'

0:37:390:37:43

This is one of the best days for me -

0:37:430:37:45

where you've been to see households who are in dire need of re-housing,

0:37:450:37:50

and then you get to this day where you're actually giving them keys.

0:37:500:37:54

You're not just giving them keys to this house -

0:37:540:37:57

you've giving them keys to a safe, secure future.

0:37:570:38:00

Hi, how are you feeling?

0:38:010:38:02

SHE CHUCKLES

0:38:020:38:03

-Nice to see you.

-And you.

0:38:030:38:05

-Good day for you.

-Yes.

0:38:050:38:07

-Hi, Richard. All right?

-Yeah, not too bad, thank you.

0:38:070:38:09

This is the day you get your house.

0:38:090:38:11

Yes! This has been a long wait.

0:38:110:38:13

Yeah. It's really exciting for us, as well.

0:38:130:38:16

It will be great to actually, you know, hand it over to you.

0:38:160:38:20

With a new arrival on the way,

0:38:210:38:22

coupled with Ashley's health problems,

0:38:220:38:24

it looks like this property may be the perfect way to provide

0:38:240:38:27

the stability this couple desperately needs for the future.

0:38:270:38:30

-14 minutes from Mum's place.

-Yeah.

0:38:300:38:32

14 minutes! Great, yeah!

0:38:320:38:34

So she'll be a regular visitor, won't she?

0:38:340:38:36

-Yes, she will.

-How lovely to have her only 14 minutes away.

0:38:360:38:39

I think you might need that, won't you, over the coming months?

0:38:390:38:42

THEY CHUCKLE

0:38:420:38:43

So, shall we go inside, then, and have a look?

0:38:430:38:46

Yeah. Go for it. Welcome!

0:38:460:38:48

Ashley and Richard have only ever seen the plans for the house.

0:38:480:38:52

This will be the first time through the door.

0:38:520:38:54

It looks like the first impressions are positive.

0:38:580:39:00

Outside, plenty of room.

0:39:020:39:05

And how are you sorted for carpets?

0:39:050:39:07

Cos obviously you've got concrete floor here.

0:39:070:39:09

We've got the rugs, haven't we?

0:39:090:39:11

-You're going to put rugs down till you can afford it?

-Yeah.

-OK.

0:39:110:39:14

-Only a couple of weeks.

-That's the worst thing we've got to tackle.

0:39:140:39:18

Yeah.

0:39:180:39:19

And the kitchen, I mean, that's just got everything we need in it.

0:39:190:39:22

-I don't think I've ever had a larder that big.

-Aah!

0:39:220:39:25

Well, the downstairs seems to have gone down well,

0:39:250:39:28

and the good news continues upstairs.

0:39:280:39:30

It's just nice to know that we're not going to be

0:39:300:39:32

with a baby in the old property.

0:39:320:39:35

And there's my favourite part - the heated towel rails.

0:39:350:39:38

I know that's slightly embarrassing to get excited about but that is...

0:39:380:39:41

This will be the baby's room.

0:39:430:39:44

Yeah, absolutely!

0:39:440:39:46

And Richard's girls when they come to stay.

0:39:460:39:47

-Yeah. Yeah. So we'll get a bunk bed in here, I should imagine...

-Mm-hmm.

0:39:470:39:51

..with a nice little wardrobe.

0:39:510:39:54

Beautiful-sized, as well.

0:39:540:39:56

It looked a lot smaller on the plan.

0:39:560:39:58

This is our bedroom.

0:39:580:39:59

-Go on, Ash!

-HE CHUCKLES

0:40:010:40:03

That's just amazing! I know, I know.

0:40:060:40:08

-It goes all the way to the end, look.

-Yeah.

0:40:080:40:11

I don't think we could buy enough clothes to fill that!

0:40:110:40:14

Oh, you don't need to worry about that - you've got a baby coming!

0:40:140:40:17

With the tour complete, there's just the matter of the paperwork.

0:40:170:40:21

Richard and Ashley will begin life in this home as starter tenants,

0:40:210:40:24

and all being well, they'll become eligible for a full,

0:40:240:40:26

assured tenancy in 12 months' time.

0:40:260:40:29

So, what we've got to do now is sign the tenancy agreement.

0:40:290:40:31

-OK.

-So...

0:40:310:40:33

Give me some money, and then I'll let you sign it!

0:40:330:40:35

-There you go.

-I've never been so happy to give away nearly £600!

0:40:350:40:40

Thank you so much. Well, we're happy to give you the house.

0:40:400:40:42

So, you need to sign those.

0:40:420:40:44

So, you're down here.

0:40:440:40:45

So, if you go top line, Ashley, Richard, go underneath.

0:40:450:40:47

Kind of!

0:40:510:40:52

At least yours stays the same, like.

0:40:550:40:57

I'm signing on behalf of White Horse Housing now.

0:40:570:41:00

It's absolutely fantastic being so close to everything,

0:41:000:41:03

-and, erm...

-Mm-hmm.

-..this has finished so well, hasn't it?

0:41:030:41:06

Hasn't it just?

0:41:060:41:07

Belinda's work here is done.

0:41:080:41:10

Now it's up to Ashley and Richard.

0:41:100:41:13

-Keep well, then.

-Thank you.

-See you soon.

-Thank you, Belinda.

-Take care.

0:41:130:41:15

-Bye-bye.

-Bye-bye.

0:41:150:41:18

New baby on the way, new home.

0:41:180:41:20

You can understand if they're a bit overawed.

0:41:200:41:22

-I don't know what to do first!

-Neither do I!

0:41:230:41:25

THEY LAUGH

0:41:250:41:26

-Maybe sort things out, like.

-Yeah, that's probably a good idea.

0:41:260:41:29

Front door there. Patio doors there.

0:41:290:41:31

-There's hundreds of them!

-I know - five shed keys.

0:41:330:41:35

Six patio door keys!

0:41:350:41:38

We wish them the very best of luck together.

0:41:380:41:41

Close to my mum, close to my sister, close to work.

0:41:410:41:44

It's easy to see a future here, isn't it?

0:41:440:41:46

-Close to a supermarket.

-Oh, my, yeah! Absolutely!

0:41:460:41:50

-Yeah.

-It's quiet.

0:41:500:41:52

It's perfect.

0:41:530:41:54

It genuinely couldn't be any better.

0:41:540:41:56

I don't think you could imagine anything any better, could you?

0:41:560:41:59

No.

0:41:590:42:00

Ashley needed something like this to pick her up and get her back

0:42:000:42:03

on track again.

0:42:030:42:05

I can see a big improvement in her.

0:42:050:42:07

It was lovely today when she actually said to me

0:42:070:42:10

that she feels balanced.

0:42:100:42:12

So, this is what we've done.

0:42:120:42:13

We offered her a beautiful home.

0:42:130:42:15

She's now got the foundation to build the rest of her life.

0:42:150:42:18

She feels balanced.

0:42:180:42:20

She feels happy.

0:42:200:42:21

And that's why we're here - that's what we do.

0:42:210:42:23

We give people opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise get.

0:42:230:42:28

If I was going to put a scale on it, out of ten,

0:42:280:42:31

I'd be ten, happy-wise.

0:42:310:42:32

Definitely.

0:42:320:42:33

11!

0:42:340:42:35

THEY LAUGH

0:42:350:42:37

It's magic.

0:42:370:42:38

Well, the good news continued for Ashley and Richard.

0:42:430:42:47

After moving in, a baby girl,

0:42:470:42:49

Lottie Skye Betty Harris, was born just before Christmas,

0:42:490:42:53

weighing 7lbs 9oz.

0:42:530:42:55

Mother, father and new daughter are all doing well in their new home.

0:42:550:42:59

That's it for today, but join me again next time,

0:43:040:43:07

when I'll be back on the front line with the Housing Enforcers.

0:43:070:43:10

Matt Allwright travels to Kent to join housing officers on an estate inspection to tackle antisocial behaviour. In Wiltshire, there is a race against time for expectant parents to find a home for their new baby. In Stroud, a mother and daughter's house is facing extensive renovation after 40 years of neglect. While in Croydon, Matt comes face to face with a house that is falling apart.