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Gravesham and Medway have highest number of households at risk of homelessness

By KentOnline reporter

One in 69 households in parts of Kent could face losing their homes according to new research.

Homeless charity Shelter has compiled data identifying the hotspots in Kent where people are most likely to lose their home, either through repossession or eviction.

In Gravesham 584 households are at risk - the equivalent of one in 69 - while in Medway 1,442 households - 1 in 74 - could beceome homeless.

In many towns, even modest terraced houses are beyond the reach of many families
In many towns, even modest terraced houses are beyond the reach of many families

The charity blames the high cost of property, both to buy and rent, in the south east, a trend that has left more and more families "teetering on a financial knife-edge".

“Renting privately is not a viable option for us as we do not possess the means to pay the associated advance rent, security deposits and administration fees" - Emily Shephard

With little or no savings to fall back on, just one thing like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:“Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week.

“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.

Just yesterday KentOnline reported the situation faced by mother of two Emily Shephard, 30, of Devonshire Road, Dover, who was served with an eviction notice after complaining about a persistent damp problem in the property.

Miss Shephard is waiting on the council housing list and cannot find a privately rented property to live in because of her low income.

Mother Emily Shephard fears of becoming homeless after eviction, seen here with, Lily aged five and Cooper aged two
Mother Emily Shephard fears of becoming homeless after eviction, seen here with, Lily aged five and Cooper aged two

She said: “Renting privately is not a viable option for us as we do not possess the means to pay the associated advance rent, security deposits and administration fees.

“Although Dover District Council have offered to assist with their guarantor scheme, it has been impossible to find a private landlord or even a housing association that will accept this.”

Renters on a low income like Miss Shephard are particularly vulnerable to the whims of landlords.

At the beginning of this year, millionaire landlord Fergus Wilson decided not to rent any of his properties in the county to people receiving housing benefits.

Fergus Wilson
Fergus Wilson

The 65-year-old tycoon said he prefers to rent to eastern European migrants, who he claimed are more likely to pay their rent on time.

He estimated more than 50% of his tenants in Ashford - and around 90% of those in Maidstone - come from eastern Europe.

Mr Wilson said: "This decision is only down to money - it has nothing to do with the personalities involved.

"When it comes to money, over half of people on benefits were defaulting on their rent, and when it comes to people who are working, we've not had one single person default on one single penny.

"You can appreciate why. Rents are going up in line with the price of houses, and housing benefit levels are dropping at the same time.

"Tenants from eastern Europe, places like Poland, have been here a number of years now and have built up a good enough credit rating to rent privately.

"We won't see the impact of more recent migration for years to come, but people on benefits are having to compete with them.

"My message to people is 'get yourself a job, and you will get yourself a house'."

The Shelter helpline is open 365 days a year, and is staffed by a dedicated team of 50 expert advisers who offer vital support and advice to homeless families and those still fighting to stay in their homes.

To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3

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