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'We've been waiting for nine years for a home'
SHE signed up to be the council’s “poster girl” for a new housing scheme back in 2004. But mother-of-five Sarah Livingstone didn’t expect to still be on the waiting list for a permanent council house nine years on. The 30-year-old appeared in a 2004 Oxford City Council brochure to promote its Home Choice scheme.
Under the scheme, the council helps tenants pay deposits on private rented accommodation and housing benefit to landlords for people on its housing waiting list.
It is aimed at helping those at risk of homelessness but who cannot get a permanent council-owned property.
But Mrs Livingstone said the council has only offered her one rental property each time she wanted to move and each was unsuitable.
They are now happy with a five-bedroom home they moved into in Waynflete Road, Barton, last year – the eighth through the scheme.
But they are still waiting for a permanent council house nine years on. Mrs Livingstone and supermarket delivery driver husband Danny, 29, moved last September with Josh, eight, Ella, six, Tyler, four, and twins Ruby and Megan, two.
She said: “Each time we were told we could take the next property they offered, or make ourselves intentionally homeless.
“So each time, for the children’s sake we saw no choice but to move on, even though we are wracked with guilt that they are being constantly uprooted and we are living out of boxes.
“Josh cries when he comes home from his nanny’s as he says he hasn’t a ‘real’ home.”
Full-time mum Mrs Livingstone said her efforts to get permanent council property have been fruitless.
She joined the scheme in 2004 as she had a new baby and was living with her parents and brother.
She featured in a 2004 article in the Oxford Mail about how more than 100 families had been helped to find homes.
She said then: “I was very grateful to get a house. The housing staff were brilliant.”
She could have declared herself “homeless” to rise up the permanent housing waiting list but went for Home Choice.
Some 5,000 people are waiting for a permanent council property and 550 were let last year, mostly to existing tenants.
Mrs Livingstone said: “We have seen so many people we know declaring themselves homeless and being given their own council properties.
“There seems very little choice at all in Home Choice.”
A council spokesman said: "We have helped this tenant move six times which has involved paying deposits and arranging rent in advance.
“We actively advise applicants to search for their own homes in the private rented sector as an option to seek rehousing, as well as being on the council register.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people are on that list.
“We hope our affordable homes programme will go some small way in helping to provide more homes.”
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