A former steel worker who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis – a lifelong condition that affects the brain and nerves – says he is struggling to secure a suitable home as his condition deteriorates.
Michael Ierodiaconos, 52, currently has a second floor flat at Stratford House in Margate. The dad-of-three says the flat would be ideal if it was on the ground floor but with his condition now confining him to a wheelchair he is finding it increasingly difficult to get out of the building, especially when the lifts fail.
Michael has been attempting to bid for a new property for over a year and is classed as band A – urgent housing need, But he says the number of adapted properties on offer is low and there are a lot of people bidding on each one.
Michael has suffered with MS since he was 27 and the condition is progressive with no cure.
He said: “It is really hard to get an adapted property, there aren’t enough to go around. I could bid for properties that haven’t been adapted but then there is a risk of having to live there while work is done.
“I have a good flat in Stratford House with everything I need except it is not on the ground floor. When I first moved in six years ago it was fine but my condition has deteriorated and now I am using the wheelchair I cannot use the stairs. When the lifts break down I am trapped either indoors or outside not being able to get up to my flat. The MS is progressive, it is only going to get worse.
“(Landlords) Southern Housing do not rehouse, I have to go to Thanet council for that and they say that I need to bid. I know lots of people are in this position and I am lucky that Roger Gale (MP) went through social services to get me into Band A but it is still very difficult.”
Thanet council currently has 1826 households on the housing register and of these 101 households have restricted mobility which will cause them to have some form of adaptation within a new home.
The authority said it was not possible to say how many adapted properties the council has “as adaptations are personalised to existing tenants and vary significantly from home to home.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases. We can confirm that if a household finds themselves in difficult circumstances or if they are living in a property which does not suit their needs, the council’s Housing Options team will always provide support and assistance to find the best solution. Every circumstance is different and we would therefore look to agree on a personalised approach to every case.
“The council works closely with Kent County Council’s Occupational Therapy Service, to assess the needs of residents with physical disabilities. This could include supporting with an application for a disabled facilities grant (DFG) to adapt someone’s existing home, or to adapt a home that they move into.
“For council tenants we hold a specific budget for adaptations to complete any works recommended by the Occupational Therapy Service, where these are possible. However, if someone’s existing home is not adaptable we would work with them to support moving to a home that is either already adapted or could be adapted to meet their needs.
“As adaptations are designed for the specific needs of each person, a previously adapted home may not necessarily be suitable and would still need to be assessed.”
Thanet is facing a severe shortage of affordable homes to rent, whether adapted or not. The authority adopted a new Housing Strategy in July, detailing the housing pressures in the area and setting out the actions that the council is taking to tackle them.
TDC has been building and buying new homes for affordable rent “so that every family in need has access to the suitable and affordable home they need.”
Disabled Facilities Grants are means-tested but adaptions for council tenants are not. If a resident receives Housing Benefit or any other means-tested benefit then they would automatically qualify for a DFG. If they do not receive one of these benefits, they would be asked to complete a financial assessment form to find out whether they qualify for a full grant or whether they would be expected to make a contribution towards the cost of works from their own resources.
Michael said: “There is a big demand for adapted properties and lots of people are bidding. I know there are people worse off than me, I have all my faculties and have my car, and if only my current flat was on the ground floor it would be perfect. But if you have disabilities it does seem very difficult to find a suitable place to live and not become trapped.”