We all need somewhere to live that we can afford. With rental values in Bath now the highest anywhere in the South West, increasing numbers of families are finding themselves unable to rent, let alone buy, a home in the city.
Curo lets affordable homes to local people who have been priced out of the private rental sector. People find themselves needing social housing for many reasons.
The majority of Curo’s customers are in paid work, like Bath teacher and single mother Lily (not her real name) who faced being made homeless with her two children when her landlord decided to sell the house she’d been renting for over three years.
“This was my daughter’s GCSE year, so this couldn’t have come at a worse time,” explains Lily. “I asked my landlord if we could stay on until my daughter finished her exams, but he said no. We had weeks to find somewhere to live.”
Lily began her search by visiting local lettings agents. “It was the same story everywhere I looked. I was asked what I earned and told, ‘sorry, we won’t have anything for you’. As a parent, keeping a roof over your children’s heads is the most important thing [SP1] and I felt worthless.
“When a teacher’s salary won’t allow someone to rent a house where they work, you know there’s a big problem. There was simply nothing available that I could afford.”
Because Lily was registered with Homesearch – the local council’s housing waiting list – she was able to apply for homes being let on long-term, secure tenancies at subsidised rents by housing associations like Curo. With her tenancy ending imminently and with nowhere to live, Lily was given a priority banding on the register.
Just two days from being made homeless Lily found a Curo property in the city. “I was feeling hideous until I approached Curo,” said Lily. “But from the moment I walked into their offices I was treated with humanity and kindness. Simple things matter… the receptionist offered me a coffee and showed me to a seat, and I was listened to by everyone in their lettings team. At a time when everyone else was turning me away, that made so much difference to me.”
Relieved to be staying in Bath, close to her work and her daughter’s school, Lily is busy transforming her new place into a new home for her family.
Curo owns over 13,000 homes across the West of England, the majority in and around Bath. Curo’s Head of Lettings, Hayley Stockham, explains how the housing association is providing affordable homes for local families to rent: “We help thousands of people every year to find and rent a home they can afford. As a housing association and charitable organisation, we can offer reduced rents to people who can’t afford to rent privately. We don’t set these rents ourselves, they’re pegged to around 60%-80% of the local market levels.
“Data compiled by the National Housing Federation shows just how difficult the rental market is in Bath. At £1,096 a month, Bath & North East Somerset has the highest average private sector rents in the South West. Commercial landlords aren’t going to offer subsidised rents, so without housing associations like Curo, many people would find it impossible to live in the city, even key workers like nurses or teachers.
“More and more we’re finding that professionals like Lily who have a well-paid job are coming to us for support. The demand for homes is huge though, and it’s not uncommon for 100 people to apply for the same home.
“The solution is of course to build more homes. We’re building homes for rent and for sale – every new home adds to the supply of housing. And with reduced government funding for house-building, each new home we sell enables us to build two more affordable homes.”