Health worker converts his car into his home to escape soaring rent and energy bills

  • In the second of his special reports, ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward has been meeting those who are fighting just to make ends meet

A mental health support worker has converted his car into a home, because he can longer afford to pay his rent.

Gareth Ward, who earns around £1,000 a month in his job, said that the rising cost of living was a big factor in his decision.

Mr Ward, 48, currently pays £850 a month on rent and council tax for his one-bedroom flat on the outskirts of Norwich, but with energy bills and food prices going up, he is now struggling to make ends meet.

With money so tight, he has now started turning his 15-year-old Vauxhall Zafira into his new home and estimates it will save him £900 a month.

"It's not a decision that I came to lightly," he told ITV News Anglia.

"I just realised that I was struggling to pay my rent, so I weighed up the pros and cons, and this just makes sense to me in terms of affordability.

"All these bills, like your rent, your tax, your hot water, your heating, gas and electric etc [going up] - it's not happening."

Gareth has laid the back seats down so that he can install a bed to sleep in. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mr Ward will soon become part of a growing online movement of people who are opting to live in their cars in order to avoid paying soaring rents.

He has spent the last few months watching Youtube videos and researching the stories of people who have converted their cars before.

Mr Ward has now laid down the back seats to make space for a bed, and has also bought a camping gas cooker and blacked out the back windows.

His next step will be to buy a portable power station so that he can charge his mobile phone and run electrical items like his kettle.

Gareth Ward has bought a kettle and portable stove. Credit: ITV News Anglia

He is also planning to take out a gym membership so that he can shower, will wash his clothes in laundrettes, and has downloaded an app to find free car parks.

With winter on the horizon, an "arctic level" sleeping bag is the next item on his shopping list in order to protect himself from the cold.

Mr Ward admitted that he was apprehensive about life on the road, but also thought that it would benefit his own mental health.

"I like the idea of the burden being lifted off my shoulders. There's a beautiful world out there and I can get to see more of it," said Mr Ward.

"It's finally freedom for me. No pressure of bills, no people on your back asking for money anymore. This is freedom and the world is my oyster."

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said help was available to people struggling with rent and bills.

"Our Let NCC scheme is designed to help address the shortage of social and affordable housing. We work with property owners so that we can provide homes below current market rent levels.

"We would urge anyone using the scheme to contact us if they are having difficulties meeting their rent payments. We can signpost to any support they may be entitled to, as well as provide free housing advice."

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