Leeds family of five forced to live in single room amid rental crisis

  • Video report by Helen Steel

A family of five have been forced to move into a single room in an emergency bed and breakfast after being left homeless amid spiralling rental costs.

Craig Nolan and his wife Melanie were unable to find a home they could afford to rent after their house in the Middleton area of Leeds was put up for sale.

After spending a year on the waiting list for a council house without success, they were forced to vacate the property before bailiffs arrived.

They "walked around the streets" with their three children – Sian, 11, Jackson, 10, and seven-year-old Patrick – waiting to find out if they could be housed before being given their single room emergency accommodation in Leeds.

Mr Nolan told ITV News that seeing the impact on his children was hard to stomach.

"They've lost total normality," he said. "Everything's gone from normal everyday life to being totally flipped and they don't know what to make of it. I'm dad, I'm not supposed to put my kids in this situation."

The Nolan family were left to 'walk the streets' before being moved into a B and B. Credit: ITV News

Mr Nolan, a former mechanic, was forced to give up work in 2016 after developing sepsis. Mrs Nolan, a former shop worker, has been a full-time mum since her daughter was born and home educates the children.

The family, who depend on disability benefits, had lived in the same house for more than a decade.

But when their landlord wanted to sell they found they were unable to afford current private rental rates.

Mr Nolan said: "We got told to stay put by the council - don't move because if we did leave we'd be classed as making ourselves homeless."

But when eviction day arrived the family were forced to pack up their belongings – and their dog – and move out.

"It's really upsetting, not fair on kids - nobody should have to live a life like this," Mr Nolan said.

Government figures show that last year there were more than 159,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Yorkshire. Leeds had 26,000 – the second highest number of any local authority.

Leeds City Council said it did not comment on specific cases. A spokesperson said: "The council works closely with any households placed into temporary accommodation to move them out as quickly as possible which is why Leeds has one of the lowest temporary accommodation figures of any comparable city in the UK. 

"Like most cities in the UK, the demand for social housing in Leeds far outweighs the supply. Even with significant investment, the demand for social housing is far higher than the available stock. We therefore work closely with customers to explore all options including our innovative and successful private rented scheme."

Housing charity Shelter said the problem of unaffordable rents was widespread.

A spokesperson said: "This is a real problem for many people and that's why we need a new generation of good quality social housing, with rents tied to local incomes, so people can have somewhere to go rather than this terrible, shoddy temporary accommodation."

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn has been contacted by the Nolans about their situation.

He said: "The fundamental problem is that we aren't building enough council houses and compared with the 1980s when Leeds had around 100,000 houses, there are now around 54,000. You have the perfect storm of increasing demand and falling supply. And that is why people find themselves in this awful situation that the Nolans do."

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