Running out of time: mum of two faces imminent homelessness
- Credit: Lisa Moir
Can you imagine being given just a matter of weeks to get out of the home you've lived in for almost eight years? One St Albans mother of two now fears she has run out of options as her eviction date looms.
Education worker Lisa Moir - born in St Albans - has lived in Centaurus Square, Frogmore, since 2014, but has now been told to pack up her belongings and get out.
The accommodation is owned by Hightown Housing Association and she was offered the flat with the intention that she save up for her own home over a five year period.
The 'intermediate rent' scheme offers tenants reduced rent - at 80 per cent of the market value - and is supposed to ease the burden on people who fit a specific criteria.
Lisa earns just £21,000 a year, but has been paying £931 rent a month, which has left her unable to save up a deposit to buy her own home, even if she qualified for a mortgage.
At the time of signing the tenancy, the then-48 year-old was fleeing domestic violence. She says it is possible that Hightown explained their scheme to her with a five year stipulation of reduced rent, but the stress was overwhelming at the time so she might not have taken it on board.
Lisa said: "I was in such a horrific situation. I was totally vulnerable with two sons who lived with me. I heard that Hightown were a charitable organisation who help and support people - in this very expensive part of the country - to get back on their feet.
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"For the last seven years I have worked hard as a higher level teaching assistant at a school for children who cannot be in mainstream education. Even my headteacher has tried to get the council to house me by writing to them."
In a letter to the local housing authority, executive headteacher of Links Multi Academy Trust David Allen pleaded with St Albans district council to house her, saying how loyal Lisa had been throughout the pandemic. He described Lisa as a "hardworking, caring and dedicated individual who works tirelessly for the benefit of the community" and said he was sorry to find himself having to write to them about her pending homelessness.
"I must admit I was a little surprised at the rent being so high but as it was cheaper than the house I was in, I felt that this was more secure.
"I honestly could not believe it when they told me recently I was being evicted from my flat. The only support I have had is the council telling me to look in shop windows for postcards showing rental properties and Hightown telling me that they don't think I can afford to buy through their ownership scheme, which I am already well aware of."
Lisa and her sons have been paying the rent between them for two years and have virtually nothing left at the end of each month. The idea that she should be able to now by any kind of property, she described as "farcical".
A spokesperson for Hightown Housing said: "Our resident has been renting an intermediate rent home from us since 2014. This rent option is designed to provide a springboard into home ownership for those who are working and offers residents a below market rent for five years so they can save to buy a home.
"Because of the pandemic and the challenges this posed for everyone, we allowed the resident a further two years. Unfortunately, a change of circumstances means that she no longer meets the eligibility criteria of the scheme. Hightown explained the position to her and arranged alternative two bedroom accommodation in Dacorum, but she decided not to move forward with this option.
"We have given the resident an extended period of time to explore her available housing options and we have been working closely with St Albans City and District Council.
"We recognise and appreciate that this will be an unsettling time for the resident and will continue to provide our support and assistance."
An SADC spokesperson said: “We’ve had several meetings with a Hightown Housing Association tenant regarding their tenancy which is coming to an end.
“We have given advice on all available housing options, but have never advised that we would rehouse the tenant together with a son.
“Our housing options team have provided detailed advice about the alternatives including the private rented sector and have offered to refer her to our in-house lettings agency.
“We will continue to discuss her housing situation with her and offer her all the practical support and advice that we can.”
Lisa said she has had one meeting with SADC and does not know where to turn now.