AN ELDERLY couple have spoken of their struggle to find a privately-rented home that can accommodate a wheelchair.
The pair are facing the prospect of becoming homeless as their landlord is selling their Warsash home.
MPs and charities have rallied around 73-year old Ron West and his wife Michelle, 67, as they have been asked to leave their home by November 30.
Ron said: ‘Most properties are not able to be used by wheelchairs because the doors are not wide enough, but this property is perfect. To find another property is impossible.’
The couple moved into the bungalow in Osborne Road in April 2014. As Ron has a neuromuscular disorder which means he has to use a wheelchair, their current home was adapted.
Their situation is made worse by the fact that Fareham has the highest percentage of owner-occupied properties across the UK – making it difficult for anybody to find rented homes.
Ron and Michelle could turn to the council, however Ron said: ‘I don’t really want to put that burden on the state.’
Many estate agents have been unable to find suitable properties. Paul Smith, director of Warsash estate agents Brambles, said: ‘I wouldn’t put the problem of being unable to find housing down to just wheelchair users, we just have a shortage of rentals full stop. It is just a lack of houses which is the main issue here.’
Michelle has been forced to become a night-time care assistant in order to help the couple pay for their rent – and for Ron’s own personal care worker who visits him three times a week.
As Michelle qualified for retirement at the age of 61, she is unable to claim any benefit to allow her to care for her husband.
Ron said: ‘There are no long-term properties for rent in this country, everything is on a short-term tenancy which gives the landlord the right to throw people out with six months’ notice.
‘After they have thrown you out, they just increase the rent – it’s a crazy situation.’
Fareham MP Suella Fernandes appealed for people to help Ron and Michelle.
She said: ‘I am appealing to all potential landlords to please contact The News if they have a property that may be suitable. In addition I would be most keen for other disabled people to share any advice that they may have.
‘It is crucial that disabled people have equal access to all services and that they are not discriminated against because of their disability.’
Charity calls for new housing to be adapted
LEONARD Cheshire is a charity that has aided Ron West over the past month. The organisation helps people with physical and learning disabilities.
Disability campaigns manager Emma Lindsay said: ‘In the UK 5m of us have mobility problems – we need new homes that are fit for the future when even more of us will be disabled.
‘Already thousands of disabled people are having to sleep in their living rooms and wash in their kitchen sinks because there is not enough suitable housing to meet their needs.
‘We estimate that a lack of disabled-friendly housing costs the NHS and social care services £450m every year. We must make sure that the next generation of homes are built to be adaptable if someone becomes disabled.’