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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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An Englishman\'s car...

September 25 2009
Prestwich: ‚Äö?Ñ??We can even make a cuppa with a water heater through the cigarette lighter‚Äö?Ñ?? Prestwich: ‚Äö?Ñ??We can even make a cuppa with a water heater through the cigarette lighter‚Äö?Ñ??
A Leeds family is re-housed after nine months in their Ford Mondeo A family of three from Leeds has finally been re-housed after having to live in their Ford Mondeo for nine months. Club singer Daniella Prestwich, her 12-year-old daughter Hayley and her partner Duncan Haigh lost their accommodation in May, and had been sleeping in their car until just a few weeks ago. The Mondeo became home for the three after they were taken off the priority list for Leeds City Council housing. But after nearly nine months, and thanks to a lot of pressure applied to the Council, the three have finally been offered a suitable house in the area. Local press reported that the family was taken off the Leeds City Council housing list after they refused to accept property which they felt "was not fit for human habitation." Miss Prestwich told journalists that the accommodation the Council had assigned them was in an area "where huge gangs of yobs roamed the streets." Her husband added that that while they were there, someone had thrown bricks at passing cars, and that the family was warned not to take the place by neighbours. The family found no solution but to adapt to life in a car - staying in public car parks or on residential streets near friends' homes at night. Miss Prestwich said when the cold weather came, the three would put the car heater on and make the most of their set of covers, thermals and layers. She said: "We can even make a cuppa with a water heater through the cigarette lighter." The family turned to local MP Fabian Hamilton - who is said to be dealing with a huge number of complaints about council housing in Leeds. Mr Hamilton told The Pavement: "Daniella, Duncan and Hayley approached me, and we have been working with them and Leeds city Council to get the family housed." When his constituents have housing issues, Mr Hamilton said he works closely with the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO), which runs housing in one part of Leeds. He added: "The problem with housing in general is that it is so low on the political agenda, and yet around London it is the most critical issue facing people and families. We could easily solve the problem by building more low-cost homes for rent or for rental-to-purchase schemes." Gerry Harper, spokesperson for MP Fabian Hamilton, said when the family got in touch with Mr Hamilton, he wrote a letter on their behalf to Leeds City Council, asking to have them returned to the priority list. Mr Harper said that the family had bid for many houses but the Council had not responded - even after Mr Hamilton had written letters to the council to support them. He decided to make the most of his contacts in the local media, and he got in touch with some journalists to raise the alarm. The story was published by several newspapers, including the region's biggest - The Yorkshire Post - and slowly attention was drawn towards the case of Danielle's family. Mr Harper said: "I wanted to highlight the case of the family - once it had hit the headlines, the Council would have looked a bit silly if it did not do anything about the case." The coverage on the local media rewarded the family, which has finally assigned a house by the Council. However, a large number of people - around 32,000 - remain on Leeds City Council's housing waiting list. Mr Harper said: 'There are so many families on the list because the Council is facing a severe housing shortage - and this is the effect of 25 years of the 'right to buy' policy." Introduced by the Conservatives in the early Eighties, the bill saw more than five million council house tenants gain the right to buy their home with discounts between 33 per cent and 50 per cent, depending on how long they had lived there. Mr Harper said: "The proceedings from the sale of the houses to the tenants went into the Treasury's coffers instead of being given to the councils, which now do not have money to build social housing, and people are waiting to get into the reduced number of council houses." The authority's executive board approved the sale of council land in Kirkstall, Leeds, to a private company, Home Housing Association, for £85,000, even though the land was valued at £800,000. The company intends to build 17 affordable family homes on the land. The properties will be sold by Home HA to eligible applicants in a shared equity scheme. Another plan to regenerate one of Leeds's deprived communities - Beeston Hill and Holbeck - is ongoing. Leeds' Council is to select another private company to develop a £90m project to build 200 council homes and 500 other homes over the next 15 to 20 years.