‘There is a difference between a house and a home’

Brenda first spoke to Shelter Stories last year when she was the victim of a retaliatory eviction. She recounts her housing history.

50th case study. Brenda, with her daughter and granddaughter, stand outside the front door of their home.

Brenda, with her daughter and granddaughter

My parents married before the Second World War.  When my father came back from the war there was a housing shortage and so they lived with my mum’s parents until 1952, when they got a brand new council house.

They lived about a quarter of a mile from where I am living now, in fact, I can see their house from my window.  It was the first new council estate in our area.

My mum and dad were both so excited when they got that property because it was new-build, nobody else had lived in it and it wasn’t far from my mum’s family.  It was exciting for my mum, she was so house-proud. She never thought she’d own her own house because she was working class.

My dad was proud because he had a garden and I can remember aunties and uncles coming round to help with the planting. My mum always wanted a rose tree and I remember well the day she got one it was her pride and joy.

But my mum wasn’t well so we only lived there about 15 months and then we had to go back to live with my grandma and grandad.

My mum died in 1955, when I was nine.  After that, life was not easy for my dad at all.  He didn’t qualify for housing because they had different system them.  So we ended up in really poor rented housing.

Oldham was dire in the 1960s with lots of poor housing stock. There was a programme for compulsory purchases but the poorest housing was the last to be demolished probably due to the numbers of families these areas housed. The area we lived in was just off the town centre.  Some houses were ok but some houses were dire – ours was dire. I can remember the lady living next door to us, who was in her 80s, so she’d lived there for about 60 years, ever since she got married, she kept her little house pristine and she’d come out every day and wash the step and her windows.  There was a lot of pride even though the street was in quite poor condition and some houses were falling to bits. Despite the fact it was poor housing it was a community.

Back in the mid-60s getting a house was difficult, houses were available but not council housing, not good housing.  The difficulty with providing housing has always been there, it’s not anything new.

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Then my dad died in 1965 of cancer when I was 19. I was effectively made homeless. I sofa-surfed for about 18 months although it wasn’t called sofa surfing then.  I was a minor so I couldn’t take a tenancy even though I was working in a full time job.  I stayed with a friend and with an aunty.  But as soon as there was an argument, I was shown the door.  And that’s why a roof over my head has always been really critical.

Then I got married. One of the reasons was to put a roof over my head.  The first house we had was a private landlord, and then from there we bought our first house, when I was 21.

When we bought our first house it felt almost like we’d started our journey in life because we owned a piece of land with a house on it and nobody was going to be able to throw us out. When we found the house, it was on a lane, it was so lovely, I can remember getting so excited.

Listen to Brenda talk about her first home:

They call us the baby boomers and most baby boomers own property because it was affordable.  And also, your parents wanted you to own a property even if they didn’t, they would encourage their children to put their money in bricks and mortar.  That’s the baby boomer attitude, not to rent, to put your money in property then you would always have something to back you up.

There are so many advantages to having a long term home.  You become part of the community, you’ve got schools nearby, you’ve got your local shops, local businesses, people know where you live, and you become part of that particular environment, that area, that’s what makes it a home.

Brenda's daughter and granddaughter

When I divorced a few years ago, I ended up having to rent again.  We were then evicted in a revenge eviction for complaining about damp, and it brought everything back to me. I think women are particularly affected by the lack of decent housing and I don’t believe the current housing act gives enough protection to tenants.

It’s been a shock to put myself back in this market, and take myself back 40 years.  You are subject to somebody else’s rules, that house belongs to somebody else.  I have a really good landlord now and this is my home, but there are still some things that I can’t do, and I can’t even ask him.  The walls are all magnolia, which is fine, but I was thinking the other day I’d like a bit of colour on them, but I know the landlord would say no.  It’s only a small thing, but it just reminds me, it’s not my home.

You just can’t make it absolutely how you want it. There is a difference between a house and a home.

To find myself in this situation again very uncomfortable.  I just want to own a home again.  The future is uncertain. My daughter is not going to be able to afford to buy a house unless I give her the deposit.

My grand-daughter Lily may not be in a position to buy a house unless prices come down or houses are built that are affordable. But then again, it depends on the determination of the individual. Lily is a very determined little girl and I’m sure looking at her now that she will make a success of her life.

Shelter gives free, expert housing advice from repairs to tenancy deposits. Visit our advice pages or call our helpline on 0808 800 444 if you are at risk of homelessness.

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