Life

TV review: A £1 house may be one of the great investments

Cameroon's Ysis Sonkeng (left) and England's Lucy Staniforth battle for the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup, round of Sixteen match at State du Hainaut, Valenciennes. Picture PA.

The £1 Houses: Britain's Cheapest Streets, Channel 4, Monday at 8.30pm

Bar the obvious one, there is no greater issues in politics at the moment than the unaffordability of housing.

The most recent figures show that houses in the UK now cost eight-times average earnings, a historic high and above the peak of the 2007 bubble. In London housing affordability is even worse with the average home costing more than 12-times earnings.

Ireland is in a better position but there is a significant problem in Dublin that the government seems unable to fix, with young people priced out of the market, rental rates soaring and an unwelcome homelessness problem.

So what is to be done? State intervention in the housing market has previously been troublesome with the law of unintended consequences bringing disaster.

Liverpool council, however, has come up with a novel approach which may be worth trying elsewhere.

The £1 Houses refers to abandoned Webster Triangle, two miles from Liverpool city centre.

Here the council decided to effectively give away its stock of dilapidated houses in the hope that individual liberty and ingenuity would create a stable community.

Rather than the state pay to rebuild houses in the troubled area, they asked families to refurbish themselves with the prize of a mortgage free home for life and the hope of a new community of proud owner-occupiers.

It's been a stuttering start, with just 34 out of 138 properties occupied, but this week with the start of the second series on Channel 4 we met some of the new residents.

Childhood sweethearts Mel and Rob have spent £45,000 turning one of the £1 properties into their “dream home.”

They are delighted with the outcome but are troubled that little has progressed with their neighbours. Their newly minted home, replete with hanging basket full of flowers, stands in a street where just three of 17 houses are occupied.

And dereliction brings teenagers, vandalism and trouble.

This included Mel having to confront a woman who defecated in the street outside her home.

Despite loving her home and the idea and they created it themselves, Mel is scared at night.

“It's quite intimidating if you're a woman on your own and you walk out in the dark and you've got big groups of teenagers hanging around. I just stay inside,” said Mel

And the arrival of Halloween makes Mel particularly nervous.

“There are a lot of bricks lying around - and the fact that we have made such an effort on our house is asking for trouble,” she added with a smile of resignation.

But hope remains. The new tenants are committed to the area and as others join them, it is hoped that a virtuous circle will ensue.

Part of the deal in buying the £1 houses is that the owners cannot sell for five years and it would be wonderful to see risk takers and hard workers like Mel and Rob sitting on a healthy profit at the end of that period.

****

Women's World Cup, BBC1, Sunday at 4.30pm

Steph Houghton may not thank you for it, but the controversy of the England v Cameroon match is just the spice the Women's World Cup needed.

The England captain was the victim of a nasty tackle in the closing minutes in a last 16 match coach Phil Neville said “shamed football.”

There were off the ball tackles, elbows in the face, spitting, teenage tantrums and allegations of racism.

Controversy brings eyeballs and I suspect the BBC's commitment to the tournament is to be rewarded with some record audiences should the Lionesses progress further.

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