It’s unbelievable how many families are forced to rent privately because they can’t secure a social home and have no hope of buying. That’s exactly the situation I was in.
I spent over a decade privately renting a cottage for myself and my daughter. Every month was a struggle to cover the rent. I felt a lot of shame about that – like I was getting something wrong or should be coping better.
For the final few years we lived there, the landlord kept raising the rent. That wore away at my already overstretched finances, despite the fact I work as a dance teacher and therapist at a university. In the end, I was asked to pay £100 a month extra, which was impossible.
It was clear I couldn’t keep my head above water much longer, so I was constantly on the lookout for somewhere more affordable to live. Most of the homes advertised ate up a huge chunk of my wages, so my options were incredibly limited. The fact that I was working yet couldn’t find somewhere stable for myself and my daughter to live was horrible.
I’d been on the social housing list for many years, but I didn’t hold out much hope. Then last autumn, I came top in the council bidding list. We moved into a small bungalow in October 2018. It was such a relief – my daughter said she’d never seen me so happy.
Our new home is brilliant and I count my blessings every day. It definitely needs fixing up here and there, but I’m so excited about it. This feels like a long-term project to make my own.
This time last year I could never have imagined being free from benefits while I was paying £1,000 a month in rent. But now it’s completely achievable and that feels wonderful.
When we were renting privately everything was done on an absolute shoestring. New clothes certainly weren’t top of the list. Recently, we realised that my daughter had no summer clothes at all and I was able to set a budget and take her to buy some.
It occurred to me that we’d never, ever gone clothes shopping together before – she’s never had that experience with me. Normally, we’d have to beg and borrow whatever we could.
Now I’m in a social home, I worry about money much less. I know I can afford my rent and it’s a weight off my shoulders to know it can’t go up from one month to the next. My daughter is 18, so my child benefit will soon stop and so will my child tax credits – but I can manage. If I was still renting privately, I’d be really panicking.
I’m still careful with money and what treats we have. I’d never go out and buy coffee when I can have a cup of tea at home. But I have a bit of freedom around my finances now, which is lovely.
Our bungalow is humble, but it’s brought so much joy and freedom to me and my daughter. Everyone should have a home that makes them feel safe.
Many people struggling with private renting as Lauren did. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough social housing for everyone who needs it. Lauren was lucky to get social housing, but many people are still trapped in unstable private rented accommodation that they cannot afford.
This is why we’ve developed a comprehensive vision for social housing, so that so that more people can find a home they are happy in – just like Lauren. We need your help to put pressure on politicians. Join our campaign and signed our petition here.
Have you had a bad housing experience? If so share your story with Shelter to raise awareness of the need for safe, secure and affordable homes.