Personal trainer Dawn received an eviction notice just three weeks after giving birth to her second child. Image: BBC / True North Productions / Cressida Kinnear
Housing programmes on television are usually about choice – BBC Three’s Evicted is a TV show about what happens when you have none.
Think property programmes and it’s Phil and Kirstie asking you whether you’ll Love It Or List It. It’s Dion Dublin asking whether you’re going to rent out or sell your auction bargain on Homes Under the Hammer. It’s Kevin McCloud asking where the optimal spot for a skylight is on your big build project on Grand Designs.
Of course, the reality is that choice is a luxury only the select few can afford in the housing market.
BBC Three’s Evicted, which starts on Thursday, follows eight young people living and working across England as they try to come to terms with being evicted from their homes.
The show follows young people like Thai, who works as a marketing manager for an escape room in Bristol.
She receives a letter from her landlord telling her the rent is going up 66 per cent to £750 per month – the second rent increase in a year. If she doesn’t accept then she will be evicted, the letter adds.
“I read it about four times and then burst into tears,” Thai said, calling the rent hike basically an eviction notice in itself.
Thai knows she’ll be forced to move back to her native Cornwall if she has to go, leaving behind her life in the city where her favourite music drum ’n’ bass was popularised.
She decides to fight the rent rise, arguing that the landlord cannot increase her monthly payments twice in a year. That won her a stay of execution for a couple of months but she knows the rent increase will make living in her flat unaffordable with more than half her income going on rent.
He’s spent time and cash turning his Manchester flat into the perfect space to create music in his spare time. But he and the other residents in the building are being evicted and can only speculate on why.
Later in the episode he gets his answer while searching for a new place: the landlord is refurbishing the flats to up the rent from £670 to £1,450 per month. But Ben is paying a steeper price as he battles with the mental toll of the situation.
Section 21 evictions are a leading driver of homelessness and even landlords agree that they should be scrapped, providing they are adequately replaced.
In the meantime, a “perfect storm” of conditions has made the threat of eviction a very real one – that’s the phrase used by the estate agent preparing to evict personal trainer Dawn in the show despite her giving birth just three weeks earlier.
A cost of living crisis that has seen inflation soar beyond pay and the rising cost of essentials like food and energy bills coupled with record-high rents has become a renters’ reality.
It’s a predictable end result: the number of eviction notices being sent out and the number of people losing their home against their will has continued to rise.
A year ago, housing charity Shelter said a Section 21 eviction notice has been issued every seven minutes since the government pledged to scrap them.
Eviction notices have continued to be issued at a frantic pace – the BBC’s analysis of official Ministry of Justice figures found more than one thousand notices are being issued every week.
The most recent homelessness figures from England show 6,170 households contacted their council for help after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice between July and September last year – that’s almost 35 per cent higher than the same three months in 2021.
Even that bit when Kirstie and Phil sit with nervous house buyers in the pub while they negotiate a price is bittersweet as they up bids to far beyond the asking price.
Maybe housing shows that reflect reality rather than championing a home as an aspirational investment are a good thing.
But after watching Evicted, it becomes apparent that there is a choice after all, just not for residents. Will renters be given more protection and power to stay in their homes or will the wait for the Renters Reform Bill continue?
Over to you, Tories.
Evicted is on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from Thursday
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