We want a normal family life'

PUBLISHED: 11:45 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 13:30 04 May 2010

Dad Alan with Angela and baby Shaun.
Photo: HELEN DRAKE

Dad Alan with Angela and baby Shaun. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

A FAMILY of four are being forced to live in a one-bedroom flat because outdated legislation fails to class them as a priority for rehousing. Alan Feetham and his Indian-born wife Thungchibeni have been told that their lounge can double as a bedroom so th

A FAMILY of four are being forced to live in a one-bedroom flat because outdated legislation fails to class them as a priority for rehousing.

Alan Feetham and his Indian-born wife Thungchibeni have been told that their lounge can double as a bedroom so they are not an urgent case for a bigger home.

But Ely's Hereward Housing Association, which owns the first floor flat, is applying minimum legislation governing overcrowding which was drawn up almost 65 years ago.

The rules, which are also used by health chiefs at East Cambridgeshire District Council, have not been updated since 1938 despite the Housing Act being renewed two years ago.

Mr Feetham, 37, said from his home in Windmill Close, Ely: "They have told us we are not overcrowded and we are not an urgent case for rehousing. But it seems they are applying rules from 1938.

"People used to live with outside toilets and without proper bathrooms but that doesn't mean we want to today. This is a stressful situation and it causes us to argue."

The couple have been forced to move a bed into the corner of their lounge for their 22-month-old daughter Angela, while their seven-week-old son sleeps in their bedroom.

They claim they have been told it could be years before they are rehoused.

"Our daughter falls asleep between 7pm and 9pm each evening and then we have to be quiet," added supermarket worker, Mr Feetham. "It's very hard to try to live a normal life. Often we just end up going to bed.

"The situation will only get worse when the children get older. Eventually I can see us having to use our bedroom as a living room."

Stephen Clements, director of environmental health at East Cambridgeshire District Council said: "Sadly we have got standards where living and dining rooms count as extra rooms and in terms of people living in a property children count as halves or even quarters. It is quite archaic.

"Back in 1938 there were a lot of people living in rented properties and some of these were in dire condition. This was seen as sledge hammer legislation. But by today's standards if people are being required to sleep in living or dining rooms most people would consider it overcrowding.

"To me it is a comfort issue, but there is nothing we can do about it. We are governed by the legislation."

Hereward Housing Association's director of housing, Alan Lewin, said: "The East Cambridgeshire environmental health officer has investigated and concluded that, under housing legislation, Mr and Mrs Feetham are not statutory overcrowded.

"We have every sympathy with their case as our aim is always to put people in suitable homes as soon as possible.

"Applicants to Hereward for housing are assessed according to needs and placed in various bands and Mr and Mrs Feetham are in upper band B. All the applicants above them on the list are in upper and lower band A which would include priority homeless people, people with high priority medical needs and households which have been classed as overcrowded."

He added that Hereward Housing Association has let or re-let 22 of its 250 two bedroom properties in Ely in the last year.

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