Family beg Southwark Council London for larger flat after moving to UK | UK | News

Milton, 53, his wife Cecilia, 50, and their two children aged 18 and 14 reside in a London studio flat and complain they are living in each other’s pockets and have no privacy. They claim they have been placed in band 3 on the housing list by Southwark Council, which means they are deemed to have a “low housing need.”  

The family are furious with this and say they should be entitled to a larger home in the area.

But the council says it has “offered lots of support” to the family since they moved to the UK from South America and that offers of alternative arrangements have been declined.

The couple’s daughter Rebecca has argued the situation is affecting her studies.

The teenager told My London: “While my mum cooks, I try to do my homework but it’s really distracting and really stressful. Because everything is together in one room, the smell of food lingers when I’m trying to sleep and this ends up affecting my studies because I cannot sleep well.

“I can’t focus. I have to go outside the flat to get some air to deal with the stress because the flat is too small, I cannot think in there. I don’t have any privacy, I have to go and change my clothes in the toilet which is really uncomfortable.

“I can’t bring my friends home because it is too small and my parents and my brother are there.”

Milton, who wants his surname kept private, has been on the housing list for three-and-a-half years, as his family have increasingly struggled living in the privately rented studio flat.

In a letter sent to Milton and seen by MyLondon, Southwark Council explained the reasons why the family’s request to be placed in the priority housing bracket was rejected.

The authority claimed it was Milton’s fault that they were in such a difficult situation.

“It is without question that you would have been aware that the room in a shared house was not going to be suitable to accommodate your family of four,” the council wrote.

“You had no accommodation for your family and did not take any steps to secure suitable accommodation for them. Despite this you made the decision to save money to buy plane tickets for them to join you in highly insecure accommodation rather than seek affordable and suitable accommodation for your entire household.

“The suggestion that you had no other choice but to place your family in an immediate situation of statutory overcrowded is not accepted by this authority.

“It is our position that it is the choices you made that led to you occupying accommodation that was statutory overcrowded at the outset.”

But Milton and his wife, who are both cleaners, claim a studio flat was the only option as they couldn’t afford a deposit and a month’s rent in advance for a two-bed or three-bed property.

Milton said: “Our living situation in the flat is not the best. School time during the pandemic was hard for my children, they could not listen and concentrate in their classes.”

Community group Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) offered its sympathy to the family.

HASL campaigner Liz Wyatt said: “They’ve spent almost five years of their lives in a studio flat. Five years of their childhood and their teenage years. It’s absolutely tragic.”

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “While this is still being dealt with as a legal issue we cannot go into too much detail about the family’s individual circumstances – we would prefer to communicate with them directly.

“However, I can confirm that we have offered lots of support to them and we assessed their housing situation in relation to their move from Ecuador, and also from Lambeth. We also offered them suitable housing in the private sector and asked if they wished to make a homeless application, which may include temporary accommodation.

“These offers were declined. We are still here to offer the family any support they require and I sincerely hope their housing situation is soon resolved.”

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