Housing

Kineara Pilots Housing Advice Surgery at Surrey Square Primary School in Southwark to Tackle the Impact of Poor Housing on Education Outcomes

Kineara Pilots Housing Advice Surgery at Surrey Square Primary School in Southwark to Tackle the Impact of Poor Housing on Education Outcomes

In a new initiative and in partnership with Surrey Square, Kineara is taking an active stance in helping parents with housing issues that are impacting the lives of its students and their families. With approximately 30% of Surrey Square School’s pupils residing in temporary accommodation, there is urgent need to address the vital link between poor housing and worsened educational outcomes. 

Housing and Education

The link between housing stability and educational success is well-documented. Children experiencing living conditions that are insecure, unpredictable, far from school or lacking in adequate facilities often face numerous challenges that can hinder their learning and development.

Poor housing conditions such as those that are damp or overcrowded can also have a profound impact on the physical and mental health of children, further disrupting their ability to engage in school activities and maintain consistent attendance.

The cost of housing also contributes to food poverty meaning many children turn up to school hungry and not in a good physical or mental position to learn or concentrate.

The situations I have witnessed at the school highlight the immense stress and burden faced by parents and guardians. There is a prevailing sense of guilt due to the crisis they are navigating, and it is evident how this stress affects their children, who become hostages to their parents’ struggles. This impact extends to both the children’s well-being and their academic achievements.

– Queenie Rushton, Housing Support Practitioner, Kineara

Addressing Housing Issues 

For these reasons, the drop-in surgery at Surrey Square Primary School aims to provide much-needed housing advice to parents and carers who are struggling with housing issues. Kineara will be supporting parents and carers experiencing problems with temporary accommodation, private renting, as well as providing advice on connecting with Southwark council, mediating with private landlords, providing direct support, and signposting for support with the interrelated issues of physical and mental health, employment, and financial concerns.    

At Surrey Square Primary School, we have a long history of carrying out meaningful and impactful family work, including supporting many families whose housing conditions fall well below expected and acceptable standardsWe have therefore been delighted to pilot this project in collaboration with colleagues at Kineara, and have welcomed their expertise and detailed case-work for our most vulnerable families. We have already seen the positive impact of this and are keen to continue seeing the fruits of this partnership

 – Fiona Carrick-Davies, Family & Community Co-ordinator 

By addressing housing issues head-on, Surrey Square Primary School is taking a proactive approach to tackle the cycle of disadvantage that many of its students face. This support can empower families to make informed decisions and improve their living conditions. 

Commenting on the new partnership, Kineara’s founder Maria Morgan said:

We are hopeful that this model will demonstrate and reinforce the value of connecting with and supporting people in the very places where the effects of housing inequality are evidenced. All too often we hear about teachers having to act as housing workers for their student’s families, because the housing emergency is so desperate.

By addressing one of the root causes of educational disparities and actively supporting families dealing with housing challenges, support like this, if extended into other educational environments, could allow teachers to focus on teaching. This emergency is detrimentally impacting everyone across the education system -parents, teachers, and most sadly, children who all deserve the foundation of a stable home.

The connection between housing, health, and educational outcomes is undeniable. This initiative underscores the importance of holistic approaches to education and serves as an inspiration for other schools to follow suit. 

Kineara hopes to work with more schools, by offering housing advice to families facing housing insecurity.  

Posted by kineara in Education, Housing, Latest
Challenges Being Faced by Newly Processed Refugees Trying To Find Housing in London

Challenges Being Faced by Newly Processed Refugees Trying To Find Housing in London

London has long been a destination for people seeking refuge from their war-torn or unstable home countries. However, the road to safety and stability for asylum seekers in the UK’s capital is far from smooth, as our housing team are seeing first hand. In this blog, we will shed light on the challenges faced by refugees in London when it comes to finding accommodation, and Kineara’s support of a looming crisis in Southwark.


A Growing Crisis

Across the UK since August 2023, the British Red Cross has reported a 140% increase in the number of people with refugee status becoming destitute. London is no exception to this: The asylum-seeking population in London is on the rise, with an estimated 1,200 individuals in Southwark alone expected to be processed and receive refugee status towards the end of 2023. The majority lack priority status for housing, making their path towards finding a safe and stable home all the more challenging.

To make matters worse, once an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, the Home Office serves eviction notices from the temporary accommodations in which they have been residing (hotels and hostels, sometimes even through private landlords).  Many charities are reporting that the notice period of this eviction from TA for refugees has fallen from 28 days to around 7 days as the government attempts to clear the huge backlog of asylum seekers by the end of 2023. This looming threat only adds to the anxiety and uncertainty they face daily, including the prospect of rough sleeping.

Delayed Access to Benefits

Newly processed refugees cannot approach local authorities for support or apply for Universal Credit until they receive their biometric residence permit (BRP) card. Unfortunately, processing delays can result in refugees having a highly unrealistic few days to set up benefits and secure accommodation, adding to the urgency and stress of their situation.

Understanding the Housing Market

Understanding the housing market and its processes is a daunting task for refugees. With little to no prior knowledge of how things work in the UK, they may find themselves vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, and substandard living conditions.

The Language Barrier

A key obstacle refugees encounter in finding housing is the language barrier. Many do not speak English, making it difficult to navigate the complex world of housing in a foreign country. This linguistic challenge can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings with landlords and authorities, or simply not knowing where to start.

The Financial Strain

For those under 35 and lacking priority status, the financial challenge is monumental. With only approximately £515 available through London Housing Allowance, the dream of finding affordable accommodation becomes increasingly elusive. Rents in London and its outskirts are skyrocketing due to high demand and limited supply, making it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to secure safe and affordable housing.

Moreover, many rental agencies do not prioritise tenants on housing benefits (DSS), narrowing to the already limited housing options.

Lack of Local Authority Support

Asylum seekers often find themselves alone in this battle. Local authorities do not offer support to refugees seeking accommodation in the Private Rented Sector. This lack of assistance further exacerbates the struggles they face when trying to secure a place to live.

Addressing the Issue in Southwark

Kineara has joined a task force established by Southwark Law Centre to address this crisis. Within this group, our intention is to participate in a weekly drop-in surgery organised by the Southwark Refugee Communities Forum. This initiative aims to assist refugees under 25, not categorised as being in priority need, in gaining access to private rented accommodation. We are also planning on holding workshops to help people understand housing processes in the UK and how the rental market works, as well as providing advice around relocation beyond London itself.

 

The challenges faced by asylum seekers in London when it comes to finding accommodation are complex and multi-faceted. Language barriers, a lack of understanding of the housing market, financial constraints, and a lack of local authority support make their journey towards stable housing an arduous one. With increasing numbers seeking asylum, it is crucial for policymakers, local authorities, and communities to come together to find solutions and offer support to those in need, ensuring that everyone has a chance at a safe and secure place to call home.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Latest
Maria Morgan addresses Healthy City Design Congress, advocating for building and sustaining better urban health through safe, secure housing

Maria Morgan addresses Healthy City Design Congress, advocating for building and sustaining better urban health through safe, secure housing

Kineara’s founder, Maria Morgan, last night delivered a compelling keynote talk at the recent Healthy City Design International Congress, emphasising the critical need housing and health equity in our communities. The event, sponsored by Kineara’s partner Impact on Urban Health (IOUH), provided a platform for Maria to highlight Kineara’s mission and work, and to discuss the urgent need for meaningful collaboration between housing and health sectors.

Maria addresses the audience at the keynote session

In her thought-provoking speech, Maria Morgan emphasized the importance of focusing on the most “vulnerable” individuals within our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the significance of our living spaces, highlighting the essential relationship between housing and health. During the pandemic, many communities experienced overcrowding, long-standing disrepair, loss of income, mental and physical health challenges, and financial concerns. Research shows that poor-quality housing has a significant impact on an individual’s health, costing the NHS billions each year.

Maria stressed the need for bold collaboration, learning from past mistakes, forward-thinking, and critical discussions regarding housing and health in challenging times, drawing attention to the fact that over 90% of Kineara’s clients experience high levels of stress and anxiety, leading to physical health issues, because of being housing insecure. She highlighted the importance of conferences like Healthy City Design in promoting urban renewal and health equity, where rich conversations and meaningful actions can take place.

The speech also drew attention to the basic human needs described by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with an emphasis on the first tier, which includes shelter. In this tier, challenges such as air quality, food poverty, housing affordability, and safety were noted. Maria Morgan called for a stronger focus on addressing these most basic needs for better health outcomes, so everyone, including the most vulnerable, can go on to play an active role in addressing issues such as climate change and creating thriving cities and communities.

It was encouraging to hear a growing appreciation and active acknowledgement from the building planning, architecture, and Urban renewal arenas, of the link between health and housing, and their work with councils in considering wellbeing in the design process.

With Impact on Urban Health’s involvement in the conference, I’m hopeful we will begin to see a growing presence of cross-sector collaboration from ground roots organisation, housing associations, designers, architects, and of course the voice of the community, contributing to these important conversations.

Maria Morgan

Maria’s speech served as a powerful call to action. Kineara’s holistic approach, its dedication to supporting vulnerable communities, and its advocacy for the critical relationship between housing and health act as a blueprint towards achieving healthier and more equitable urban environments.

Posted by kineara in Community, Event, Housing, Landlords, Latest
Empowering Collaboration in the Private Rented Sector: Kineara hosts event to discuss the highs and lows of renting in London and bust myths about landlords and tenants  

Empowering Collaboration in the Private Rented Sector: Kineara hosts event to discuss the highs and lows of renting in London and bust myths about landlords and tenants  

We were thrilled to host an insightful event at The Bridge in Southwark, London, bringing together an inspiring mix of landlords, support workers, and other council stakeholders from the Private Rented Sector. The event aimed to foster collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by all those involved in the rental market and included a performance by Cardboard Citizens. Here’s a recap of the key highlights and takeaways from the event.

Creating Stronger Connections

One of the most remarkable aspects of the event was the sense of community and camaraderie that permeated the room. Landlords, support workers, and council stakeholders engaged in open dialogues, exchanging ideas, and sharing experiences. The event provided a place for attendees to network and build meaningful connections that we hope have the potential to lead to long-term collaborations.

Making licensing work for landlords

Local licensing plays a crucial role in improving standards in the sector, and the financial schemes that are available as a result support landlords to promote sustainable investments in the Private Rented Sector. During the event, attendees had the opportunity to learn about various financial schemes available in the local area. These schemes offer assurance to landlords who may have concerns about renting to tenants receiving benefits or support services. but also contribute to the overall stability of the rental market.

Kineara’s Tenancy Sustainment Support

Attendees also gained insights into how landlords can work collaboratively with support services like Kineara to avoid the cost and stress of eviction. The tenancy sustainment approach not only benefits renters but also contributes to a positive and mutually beneficial landlord-tenant relationship.

Challenging Stigmas and Fostering Understanding

Challenging stereotypes is essential in creating a fair and equitable rental market. Cardboard Citizens led the group with moving and powerful monologues, which were created using the real input of a tenant and a local landlord we’ve worked with and brought to life. Through insightful discussions, the event addressed the stigmas held about both landlords and tenants receiving support services and animated the variety of ways tenants and landlords feel about the housing crisis and how they negotiate it. By challenging these preconceptions, it is hoped that attendees left the event with a renewed commitment to building inclusive communities and providing a supportive environment for all stakeholders in the Private Rented Sector.

Future Prospects

The success of event has inspired us to plan more engaging gatherings in the future. We are committed to continuing our efforts in empowering both landlords and renters, and facilitating partnerships between landlords, support workers, and council stakeholders. Future events will build upon the knowledge shared and create even greater opportunities for growth and collaboration in the rental market.

Kineara’s founder, Maria Morgan, commented:

“I left the PRS networking event feeling energised about the possibility of building a network where everyone in the room feels safe to share their views and leaves feeling heard. Whether you are a landlord, tenant, estate agent, Council or support service. It’s potentially the beginning of something special, where a versatile collection of voices can have meaning and add understanding to the challenging complex landscape of housing.”

A Word of Thanks

We extend our sincere gratitude to all attendees who made the event a resounding success. Your active participation, valuable insights, and enthusiasm contributed to the event’s vibrancy and impact. We would also like to express our appreciation to the organisers, speakers, and contributors for their support in delivering and facilitating a much-needed conversation.

Stay Connected

We encourage all attendees to stay connected with us for updates on future events, workshops, and networking opportunities. Let’s keep the conversations going and work together to create a stronger, more resilient Private Rented Sector.

We look forward to seeing you all at our future gatherings, and together, let’s continue to make a positive impact in the rental market.

If you would like to be invited to our next event, please email Sandra Axell at saxell@kineara.co.uk

Posted by kineara in Community, Event, Housing, Landlords, Latest
Secretary of State Gives Green Light to One of the Nation’s Largest Landlord Licensing Schemes

Secretary of State Gives Green Light to One of the Nation’s Largest Landlord Licensing Schemes

Southwark Council has received approval from the Secretary of State to implement one of the country’s most extensive private landlord licensing schemes, signalling improved support for private renters.

This new scheme follows the introduction of two previous licensing initiatives: a borough-wide additional licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and a smaller selective licensing scheme, initially piloted for 6 months, that covered about 6,000 properties and successfully rolled out thereafter for a five-year period.

The primary aim of the licensing scheme is to address renters’ major concerns, including unattended repairs, unresponsive landlords, and problems of damp and mould, which is a priority issue for the council. The scheme also intends to assist private tenants facing challenges related to the cost of living crisis, including fuel poverty.


Councillor Dora Dixon-Fyle, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, expressed satisfaction with the extended licensing scheme, emphasising the importance of working with landlords to improve housing standards and overall renting experience for residents.


This month, the selective licensing has been expanded to include a total of 19 out of the 23 wards in the borough. Starting from November 1 this year, additional wards will also require licensing to further enhance rental property standards and support private tenants in those areas.

Full article from Southwark Council here

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Landlords, Latest
London Housing Panel, Chaired by Kineara, Demands Urgent Action on Homelessness Crisis

London Housing Panel, Chaired by Kineara, Demands Urgent Action on Homelessness Crisis

London’s homelessness crisis has reached an alarming peak, with recent statistics revealing an exceptional number of households living in temporary accommodation since 2005. Amid this pressing situation, the London Housing Panel, in collaboration with London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley, and the London Housing Directors Group, has taken a stand to address the plight of thousands of homeless households trapped in temporary housing.

Kineara, as the Chair of the Working Group on Temporary Accommodation under the London Housing Panel, has played a central role in drafting and coordinating the delivery of the open letter to the government, demanding immediate action.

The Crisis at Hand

The open letter, addressed to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, expresses collective alarm over the escalating homelessness crisis in London. While homelessness is a nationwide issue, it has hit the capital particularly hard, with nearly 60% of all households in temporary accommodation located in London. The situation is compounded by an unprecedented crisis in the procurement, supply and low standard of temporary accommodation, making it more critical than ever to find sustainable solutions.


Call for Government Action

One of the Working Group’s primary objectives is to advocate for improved housing conditions and support vulnerable individuals and families stuck in temporary accommodations that are often not fit for purpose and are far from temporary.


In the letter, the collective demands urgent government intervention to address the key challenges faced by those in temporary housing. One critical concern is to ensure that stays in temporary accommodation are as short, safe, and healthy as possible, with a strong emphasis on finding permanent homes swiftly. The Working Group calls for an increase in Discretionary Housing Payment funding to support local authorities during this crisis.


Key Proposals for Action

The open letter highlights three essential areas that demand immediate attention:

  1. Preventing Homelessness: The letter urges long-term investment in new and existing social rented homes as the most effective way to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation and address housing inequalities. Raising Long-term Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels is essential to prevent further homelessness and facilitate local authorities in sourcing suitable temporary accommodation.
  2. Raising Standards: The inconsistency and poor standards in temporary accommodation pose significant challenges. The Working Group calls for new, enforceable national standards consistent with decent homes standards, applicable to all properties used for temporary accommodation, irrespective of ownership or immigration status.
  3. Children in Temporary Accommodation: Kineara and the Working Group is dedicated to placing all children housed in temporary accommodation under the Children Act or homelessness legislation, ensuring that they have access to proper kitchen facilities. Additionally, the proposal includes the development of manuals in every borough to aid families settling in and accessing essential support services.

    Conclusion

    The collaboration between the London Housing Panel, London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, and the London Housing Directors Group, with Kineara’s leadership, has led to a powerful call to action. The open letter demands immediate government attention to alleviate the hardships faced by homeless households in London. It is hoped that the government will respond promptly and work alongside various stakeholders to find comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the city’s growing homelessness crisis.

To read the full open letter, click here

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
Housing Issues: some of the common barriers we see in our work in Southwark

Housing Issues: some of the common barriers we see in our work in Southwark

At Kineara we talk about ‘breaking barriers’ to housing issues as we holistically support those on the verge of homelessness, but what do these barriers look like?

Below we summarise some of the key challenges our clients are faced with, as well as the obstacles our Housing Practitioners often encounter in the process of trying to obtain suitable, long-term housing solutions for our clients. Evidently, most of these barriers are interconnected and demonstrate the complexity of the housing crisis not only in Southwark, but across London and the UK.

1. Supply vs demand for social housing

With less and less social housing available for those who really need it, Councils are relying heavily on the private sector to take on households who should be entitled to social housing which has more affordable rates and increased security of tenure.

We meet many renters who are eligible for social housing, including those with complex health needs or mental health diagnoses, and always support them to register and bid, if possible, to protect the possibility of securing social housing for the long term. In some instances, moving further afield where rental costs are lower may be considered; this however can be highly disruptive, for example to families with children in school, and results in the renter losing their bid for social housing in the borough; understandably, this is a far from ideal scenario.

Considering the lack of social housing stock, as things stand, the private rental sector is the only option for the majority of our clients. This said, the lack of social housing is having a knock-on effect with the private rental market as we discuss below.

2. A flawed private rental market

Essentially there are far too few affordable, good-sized homes to privately rent in London and increasing competition in the market is further driving up costs, putting them out of reach for many of our low-income clients. (In Southwark, rental costs have risen 12% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).

For some, this pressure can be alleviated somewhat by the Landlord’s Incentive Scheme (LIS) offered by the council, which is paid direct to landlords and often covers the security deposit. We’ve seen however that the incentive scheme can in some instances have negative consequences for renters down the line.

A typical example may be where the council has overbid on a property for which there is a lot of competition in order to secure a place for a renter. In some instances, paying over the odds in this way means additional support that would normally go direct to the renter such as a rent deposit loan, is redirected to finance the overbid to the landlord. This means the renter does not get this money back as intended, leaving them with no deposit for their next move.

The LIS can also put the renter in an even more precarious situation as some landlords may be motivated to offer the shortest tenures allowed with the intention of securing further incentive payments for new tenancies. There are also other costs of moving for renters such as removal vans, packing materials, furnishing and storage facilities, which can run into hundreds of pounds, sometimes more.

3. Misconceptions about low income and vulnerable renters

The need for the incentive scheme for private landlords was fueled by the generalisation that those on low incomes or deemed vulnerable are not attractive prospects as renters, because they are assumed to be less secure and less likely to keep up with rent payments. The reality is that many people in these situations are indeed good, reliable tenants as their housing is much more valuable to them and the potential loss of accommodation could have a much more significant impact on their lives; in our experience, motivations to honour contracts, look after the properties in which they reside and maintain good relationships with landlords is high.

At Kineara we find ways of making private renting more secure and suitable for renters by advocating for their needs with landlords, negotiating longer tenancies, helping clients set up a new tenancy and settle into their new home.

To further help (and reassure landlords), we work with clients on their budgets to ensure their income will cover the rent and allow them to live sustainably. We also ensure they are well informed of their rights and responsibilities as a tenant and ensure they are fully benefitting from the support they are eligible for, such as Universal Credit, which can help towards rental costs.

4. Stigma associated with landlords

Landlords have had bad press in the media for many years now and we think it’s fair to say that this portrayal of private landlords as a whole is unfair. It cannot be denied that there are many genuine cases of landlords solely motivated by money and paying little regard to the condition of the properties they rent out or the welfare of their tenants; indeed we’ve already described an example of this above in relation to taking advantage of the Landlord’s Incentive Scheme.

This is not to say, however, that all landlords should be tarnished with the same brush. In fact, we believe that there are many ethical private landlords out there who care about doing social good, who can genuinely be an effective part of the solution to providing safe and secure homes whilst protecting their own investments. It is exactly these types of landlords that we are keen to connect with to find solutions to housing issues where all stakeholders have a good, long-term, sustainable relationship.

5. Pitfalls with Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

Despite rising rents and the cost of living crisis, LHA has been frozen by the government, making the gap between income and rent payments even greater for many of our clients.

In particular, renters under the age of 35 are especially struggling since this age group only qualifies for a shared accommodation allowance which can be substantially less. This presents problems for the many clients we see in this category who are experiencing physical or mental problems that make shared occupation unfeasible. Unless in receipt of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which provide additional support with extra living costs for those with disabilities, clients are unable to afford the cost of a much needed, self-contained property.

6. Language

Non-English speakers are at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to understanding the UK housing process, their rights as tenants and rules around evictions.  With a housing system that is difficult to navigate even for some native English speakers, language presents a significant barrier to many of our clients.

Whilst friends, family, and of course online tools like Google Translate play an important part in the communication process, some areas of our work such as arranging viewings and facilitating conversations with landlords, can be tricky.

Currently in Southwark we are seeing many South American immigrants, many of whom speak no English at all. To counter such barriers and make the housing process easier to understand, we have created some communications in other languages and also work with free translation services where they are available in the community.

Breaking barriers to make long-term sustainable tenancies the norm

In reflecting on these barriers, it is clear that ultimately, the UK government must prioritise providing tens of thousands more long term, secure, safe and genuinely affordable homes. Until then, front line services like ours strive to make a difference to everyday lives in the community, fostering a sense of wellbeing, advocating for the rights and needs of renters, building healthy relationships between landlords and renters, and supporting education around money matters to empower society’s most vulnerable. This, we hope will help break ongoing cycles of poor health, wealth, and education, to tackle such housing issues and make tenancy sustainment more achievable and these barriers less prevalent.

For more information on how we support residents in Southwark with tenancy sustainment, click here

Posted by kineara in Housing
‘A fairer private rented sector’: We respond to the Government’s plans for renters

‘A fairer private rented sector’: We respond to the Government’s plans for renters

In June the Government released a long awaited white paper on private rented sector reforms that many organisations and housing justice campaigners hoped would mark the final end to the use of no fault evictions as well as wider reforms to the sector. In reality, while we celebrate the abolishing of section 21 notices, there are wide gaps that the white paper fails to address, particularly for those on the lowest incomes who are routinely shut out from suitable, stable and affordable housing.

We responded to the call for evidence with several concerns we have based on our direct experience working with low income renters facing tenancy insecurity in London. These include:

  • Making it illegal for landlords to not rent to benefits recipients is a positive development but without teeth: direct discrimination against those on benefits continues despite several court rulings declaring it as unlawful. Indirect discrimination manifests in the form of requests to potential renters of a guarantor with £45,000 in income or reference to evidence of income that is x2.5 above the rent are just some barriers to entry for renters receiving benefits.
  • The report makes no mention of the growing gaps between Local Housing Allowance rates and rising rents.
  • Efforts to abolish section 21 leave in place loopholes that landlords can exploit, even in the event that the legislation is passed.

You can read our full response to the Government here.

Posted by kineara in Housing
Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

At the start of our second year in Southwark supporting private tenants at risk with holistic housing and legal support, we added a new role to the team. Our Housing Link Worker, Aisha, tells us more about how it works.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about the work you deliver and your role on the project?

As a Housing Link Worker, it’s my job to mediate between landlords and tenants to see if I can strengthen an existing relationship to sustain the tenancy, or where someone’s tenancy cannot be sustained, to network and reach out to new landlords and agents and build relationships with them to accept new tenants.

Q. Can you tell me about some mediation you have done with a client and landlord?

Recently, I mediated with a landlord who was taking their tenant to court to evict. The tenant had been issued a notice but at that point was refusing to leave, so I visited them at home to find out more. The client was really upset; they felt the landlord had been harassing her. The tenant had had little contact with the Council, and the landlord also didn’t know what was going on. There were no arrears either – the landlord was entitled to the property back, but the tenant had no-where to go. While I was at the house, I called landlord and introduced myself. I let them speak for a while and explained what I could do to support them both. This calmed them down a lot, and said ‘OK, I won’t come over again tomorrow and I’ll leave it in your hands’.

Since then, opportunities for tenancies have come up and fallen through. The landlords calls and messages quite regularly, to find out what the tenant is doing in terms of moving on. Often tenants don’t update them because so much mistrust has built over time. The landlord thinks the worst, that the tenant is not doing anything. I will get in touch with then to let them know what viewings are coming up, what the tenants are up to, and it eases their mind.

‘Thank you, it was just nice to be able to have someone to talk to when everyone was making me out to be a bad landlord, in fact, I wasn’t getting paid the rent putting me in financial trouble, I appreciate having someone to listen to me and help get me get answers.’

Most of the landlords I’ve worked with just want to be heard. Sometimes they complain they don’t have support themselves from other service or the Council, and that sometimes the advice they give to tenant contradicts what’s right for them. Not all of them have it easy. One landlord was badly affected by Covid; she had reduced rent for tenant so they could keep up with payments, but she lost her job and so became dependent on rent as her only source of income and had to pursue eviction as a result. When it comes to paying off arrears, for example, many landlords are willing to give it some time while we apply for benefits, DHPs and other things to improve incomes. Then we can negotiate repayments in way that is affordable for the tenant and the landlord can trust the process.

Q. You came into a new role in the team in a position we hadn’t had before, the Housing Link Worker. We realized that we needed good relationships with landlords and were able to find suitable properties for our clients. How was it starting off in a completely new role?

What attracted me was the job description, because of experience in the kind of thing, so I wasn’t intimidated initially. But it was quite daunting starting out as it was up to me to start building connections and relationships with agents and landlords in the borough. The first few months were tough! And its hard when tenants have knockbacks – one client called me this week after being turned down by a landlord and she was devastated, and I know how hard it’s been for her.

Q. It can be difficult finding landlords with who are willing to rent to tenants who are low income. What kind of responses do you get from new landlords when you first approach them with a client?

We do work with landlords who rent specifically to tenants referred via the council and so have a longer experience of doing so. But whether they are experienced or not, often its all about relationship building and trust.

One landlord we now work with will take on any client we bring because he trusts what we are doing. They key is once we’ve housed someone with them, they feel more comfortable with new tenants we bring to them. I will often coach tenant before viewings, just to make sure they present the best of themselves.

There are landlords that prefer to deal with myself because of my relationship with the Council and the incentive scheme. We can discuss the administrative side of things, go through tenancy agreements, set up Universal Credit, all of that. For example, some tenants get stressed moving from, say, ESA to UC. Most landlords insist that they have UC, so I can say that I am going to sit down with them and make sure it is all set up properly and this eases their minds.

‘They are both absolutely excellent. They are balanced, honest, friendly, reliable and kind. They respect confidentiality, clearly know the legal and ethical aspects of their role and deal with challenges in a mature way. It’s really obvious that they care about their work and want to do their best. Even if this particular tenant situation does not come to any resolution without legal proceedings, it does not detract from their exceptional attitude and energy in trying to move this on.’

But when it comes to incentives, I’ve had to be quite headstrong negotiating as there are landlords who are aware they can receive competing offers from other Councils. But we try to take advantage of this for the tenant. If the rent is affordable for them, I’ll check in with the Housing officer as to how can be offered. The landlord almost always asks for more, so I’ve begun to negotiate longer tenancies in return, to guarantee that there is more security. So I have got a few 24 months tenancies for clients, at rent that is affordable for them, and we know they will be stable for at least a couple of years. Its about convincing everyone that the terms are right for them.

Q. It’s been hard work by the sounds of it – but are you feeling proud of what you’ve been able to achieve?

Yes! Finally housing a number of clients within the last couple of months has felt great. Particularly one that I’ve worked with for 6 months, who had been in temporary accommodation after being evicted and who has just moved in this week. There have been so many knock backs in that time, and it’s been hard for her and hard for me too. We’ve gone on a real journey together.

Also, building relationships with landlords and bringing them into our fold is something I’m really proud of. I always get excited when I see a text or email from landlords saying we’ve got these properties, or they call me and tell me the properties they got! Its feels like we’re building new possibilities in the borough for renters, and it great to be a part of it.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing
Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choices

Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choices

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we are joining NEA and others to raise awareness of this multi-faceted and preventable issue. Highlighting the experience of Anna and her family, you can support us and make a difference to those who are unfairly trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.  


“A national injustice”

According to the NEA, around four million UK households are in the grip of fuel poverty, unable to afford to heat their homes and live comfortably as they should. On top of that, rising energy bills and unforgiving weather conditions are hitting low-income households the hardest. We’ve seen this first-hand at Kineara with many of our families being left in impossible situations, like having to choose between heating their home, paying the bills, or feeding their children.

Anna’s story: Fuel poverty and impossible choicesAnna’s story 

Anna has lived for 13 years on the top floor of a 23-story building with poor insulation and broken central heating. 

Trapped in a cycle of poverty, she pays £1400 a month for her flat so once that is paid there isn’t enough money to left cover the bills or get her heating fixed.  

She has a two year old son who she tries to keep as comfortable as possible, but now that the winter has set in it is getting harder. He’s an active little boy and want to go out to the park, but how will she warm him up when she gets back home? With little money for activities or to take him to a café to keep warm for a while, Anna does what she can to keep the house warm enough while they stay inside. 

I’ll go over to my friends house sometimes to warm up. If I could afford to, I would go to a café and sit inside to keep warm. But I don’t have any extra money to do that. 

And sometimes that means being forced into making decisions that could risk her health and safety. At times, she has no other option than to put the oven on get some heat into the room while her son watches cartoons. Sometimes he’ll ask her to blow on his hands to keep them warm. 

He’ll say “Mummy, please blow on my hands to keep them warm” like we are outside, except we’re sitting inside our living room… Sometimes I don’t have any other option than to turn on the oven, at least so my son can keep warm in the evening. 

And when she can afford it, a hot bath can help. But even that can be unappealing. When she steps out into a cold room, her teeth start to chatter, and the only solution is to get into bed with a hot water bottle. 

Hands holding hearts- winter appealDonate to our appeal 

With little money for phone credit, accessing services is really difficult and getting hold of the landlord to send engineer to repair the heating is near impossible. Each winter, the coldest months already have gone by before she has her concerns taken seriously.  

Every winter I call and call to get someone to come and fix the heating, but the whole winter goes by before anything is done. I don’t have the money to pay for an engineer.

This winter, we want to help Anna to keep warm through the coldest months. No-one should the stark choices that she is having to make for herself and her son. We’re advocating for her to fix the disrepair in her home, but you could help her and others like her to cover some bills over the winter, keep the hot water on and their mobile phone topped up. Even a small amount can make a huge difference.  

Donate what you can today! 

To help us support more families over the winter, please donate to our winter appeal. All donations will go directly to families for essential items they need over the winter period.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing