The housing system in the UK is facing a crisis like never before. Changes to the benefits system, cuts to already depleted council budgets, a lack of properties and an oversubscribed service have all contributed to a desperate and chaotic situation.
How to Get a Council House will return to Channel 4 later this year to look at the truth behind the latest housing headlines as the number of families waiting for council homes climbs to almost two million.
As one of the most densely populated areas of the UK, Portsmouth experiences huge challenges over housing services and stock, having lost 50% of their housing in the last 30 years. The number of people making homeless applications to Portsmouth Council has risen by a third in the last year.
With access over three months to their homeless persons’ unit and lettings teams, How To Get A Council House follows the day to day lives of the workers and the difficult choices they make in deciding who should get a home.
Being homeless in Britain doesn’t automatically mean that you should be given help. While councils have a legal duty to find housing for people, this is only if they fall into a priority group. It is up to a team of over-stretched housing officers to work out who is and isn’t telling the truth about their position; who deserves to be given help and who should be turned away.
The range of cases in Portsmouth is alarming, including a 61-year-old rough sleeper, a mother of four being evicted from her home, and a Romanian immigrant with nowhere to go.
With 2.5 million people in Britain on benefits and unable to work for health reasons, Portsmouth City Council also has to deal with a growing number of people seeking social housing on medical grounds. Half of Portsmouth’s council housing stock is over 50 years old and not designed for people with complex medical needs.
In this series housing officers urgently need to find a home for a family whose 6-year old daughter has a serious kidney condition and a terminally ill grandfather who is sleeping on a sofa in his son’s house.
How To Get a Council House offers an unflinching look at the people who fuel Britain’s homeless epidemic and the anger, resentment and desperation that arises when demand just cannot meet supply.