Television property guru Phil Spencer’s new one-off special Phil Spencer: Find Me A Home contains all the usual rollercoaster of emotions and property finding frustrations familiar to fans of his hit show Location, Location, Location. But this time, Spencer is looking to help two families facing homelessness.
Despite being renowned for finding properties to suit all budgets and all tastes, Spencer admits this is his biggest challenge to date.
“Nothing I have done before has prepared me for how hard this will be. Where are they supposed to go looking? How are they supposed to find somewhere to live?” says the 47-year-old, who is also a patron of homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway.
Corvel, Meyrem and two-year-old CJ have lived in Southwark, Central London their entire lives. Despite working, the young family found themselves homeless after they were evicted from the private rental home they shared with Meyrem’s parents following the death of her father.
Temporary accommodation has been found for them on the Aylesbury Estate. But not only is it infested with cockroaches, but it is also set for demolition. And they are paying a whopping £903 per month, with no access to welfare payments, to stay there.
“You want to work, you want to better yourself as a family – but how can you do that if you don’t know where you are going to be,” says Corvel.
this quality of accommodation is awful. They are in an impossible situation
The choices are stark. And Spencer pulls few punches in a show that highlights the way the odds are stacked against people facing homelessness.
“This is a lot worse than I expected,” he says. “They are a hard-working couple doing everything right. Paying taxes.
“And yet this quality of accommodation is awful. They are in an impossible situation. They can stay for another two years in the hope that the council will find them a more permanent home. But there are thousands of people here – and there are not thousands of homes in which to house them when it gets knocked down.”
Also featured in the programme are Bibi and her 14-year-old son Oscar in rural Kent. Just as Oscar, who has ADHD and autism and has been home schooled by his full-time carer mum Bibi, is preparing to return to mainstream education and take his GCSEs, they are facing homelessness.
At the end of 2016, a staggering 120,000 children had no permanent place to call home
As Spencer notes, “The insecurity of the private rental market is one of the main causes of homelessness. When landlords sell or whack the rent up, families can suddenly find themselves uprooted without a roof over their heads. It can be terribly scary.”
The show is at pains to point out that the families featured are two of thousands across the UK. And it lays bare the depth of the current housing crisis.
Spencer cites the 2.5million council homes sold off under the Right To Buy initiative, the pressures on council budgets, the refusal of private landlords to take regular rental payments into account, and the widespread unwillingness of landlords to accept housing benefit recipients as just a few of the obstacles facing the families featured in the show.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
“At the end of 2016, a staggering 120,000 children had no permanent place to call home,” says Spencer.
By contacting local councils, using his contacts to find accommodating landlords, looking into the possibilities offered by Community Land Trusts, using his star power and the full power of positive publicity, Spencer tries to work some magic.
The trouble is, there is only one Phil Spencer. And, as he makes clear in the programme, “another family becomes homeless in this country every ten minutes.”
Watch Phil Spencer: Find Me A Home on All4 here