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Bristol mum's wait for a new home

By This is Bristol  |  Posted: September 14, 2009

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A single Bristol mum and her two children are sleeping on her parents' living room floor – despite a council house standing empty next door to where they used to live.

Natasha Heard, 27, and her children, Paige, eight, and Olivia, three, were forced to leave their privately-rented home in Parsons Paddock, Hengrove, when the owner decided to sell up.

For the past month, they have been living with her disabled mum and dad in a one-bed bungalow in Birdwood, Hanham.

But Ms Heard, who survives on £130-a-week benefits, claimed the house next door to where they used to live had been empty for nearly six years.

The house –1 Parsons Paddock – is boarded up and the garden overgrown.

The council says it is currently in the process of being re-let.

Ms Heard and her former neighbour Jane Ryan cannot understand how council houses can stand empty – yet thousands in the city are in dire need of a home to call their own.

A total of 14,322 people currently sit on the council's housing waiting list.

Ms Heard said: "I lived next door to that house for five and a half years and I know for a fact that it was empty for that time.

"I would dearly love to move into that house – I even told the council I was prepared to move in without them doing anything to it."

Ms Heard's eldest daughter attends Perry Court Primary School in Hengrove but she is finding it difficult to afford the travelling costs to get her to school each day.

She finds it difficult to live with her parents in such cramped conditions – especially as her mother is partly paralysed after suffering a stroke.

Mrs Ryan, 46, a housewife, said: "No one has properly lived in that property for at least five years.

"It's a mad situation when there's an empty house standing empty and yet there's thousands of people like Natasha who are in dire need of a home.

She said the house was boarded up after she reported a break-in at the property.

Council spokesman Pete Wood said the house had not been empty for five years.

He said: "The property had been let to a tenant from 2001 and they were receiving housing benefit until late May of this year.

"When we received the call about the break-in we boarded up the property to make it safe and attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the tenant.

"Once it became clear that we were not going to be able to do so, we began proceedings to take back the tenancy and a notice to quite was served on August 3 and became effective a few weeks ago."

He said Ms Heard was offered help with securing another private tenancy but rejected all offers of help, making it clear she was only interested in a council tenancy.

He said: "There is no reason why this former tenant needs to be sleeping on the floor, with two children, of her parents' house."

He said she had owed £500 in rent arrears from a past council tenancy though the outstanding amount was now under £300.

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    Redvee, Brizzle  |  September 17 2009, 5:27PM

    Five and a half years?? Not likely, the previous tenant left in April and it was boarded up in May, after a burgulary attempt, on police orders.

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    steve, bristol  |  September 14 2009, 6:21PM

    i thought if your child lives more than a certain number of miles from school a free bus pass was given ?

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    Wm, Bristol  |  September 14 2009, 6:01PM

    Two sides to every story! this single mother forced to survive on £130 a week- while probably living rent free in her parents house has just been made to look like a twit. Seriously. Go and rent privately, you get housing benefit. waste of print!

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    Samantha Creed, Longwell Green  |  September 14 2009, 11:53AM

    Single mother with benefit family expecting to be given free council house. Not exactly news is thsi?,

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