Hundreds living in cars and caravans across UK as rent rises

Hundreds of people in the UK are being forced to live in cars and caravans because their salaries do not cover the rising cost of rent.

It is a trend that is particularly prevalent in Bristol. In more deprived parts of the city such as Easton and Bedminster, caravans line the streets close to the M32 motorway.

Makeshift washing lines are propped up outside. Some have windows smashed in, others are covered in graffiti. But for many, the vehicles are what they now call home.

There is a similar situation in wealthier suburbs, too. On Clifton Down – an expanse of open fields – there are rows of eclectic-looking vans and converted horse boxes lining the roads.

Some are kitted out with wood burners and stoves, others are basic with barely even a bed to sleep on. They are parked in one of the city’s most expensive and picturesque postcodes.

Max, who lives in a red truck, says he would need to work constantly to afford renting a home
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Max, who lives in a red truck, says he would need to work constantly to afford renting a home

Max Riley is on a zero-hours contract and works in deliveries. He has lived in his red truck on the Downs for the last eight months.

He told Sky News: “It’s cheaper. I can’t really afford to live properly in Bristol. I quite like the freeness of it to be honest… Rents are going up.

“If I want to live any sort of life with freedom, I can’t afford it. I would just have to work all the time, just to pay the rent so this is the only option really, or the best option.

“I had a bedroom for £500 a month last time I lived in a house. But that was a room so compared to that, this is brilliant.”

Bristol has now introduced a policy for people living in vehicles. Short-term, low-impact encampments are tolerated, but if there are reports of anti-social behaviour, people are asked to move on.

Earlier this year, 50 vans and caravans were asked to leave roads surrounding a cemetery in Easton following complaints from neighbours.

People are frequently burgled and vans get vandalised
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People are frequently burgled and vans get vandalised

Bristol is known as a vibrant and creative city. In recent years, it has grown in popularity and rent has increased by an average of 33%.

But it’s not the only place where people are being forced into temporary accommodation due to the rising cost of living.

According to the government’s latest figures, there were around 4,751 rough sleepers in the UK in 2017. This is an increase of 15% on the previous year, with thousands more believed to be sofa surfing and sleeping on public transport or in vehicles.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, told Sky News: “I have frequently heard about people living in their cars, sometimes with children. That is not uncommon.

“I think what it represents is the sheer lack of choice… Rents have gone up six times as much as incomes and that means people simply can’t afford anywhere to live.

“And the options for the over 1.1 million people on council waiting lists are either a shared room in a hostel for your whole family or a B&B, often with shared facilities with other families, so sleeping in a car or a caravan actually looks preferable. What that says about what we are actually providing for people is pretty frightening.”

Living in vehicles can be dangerous. People are frequently burgled and vans get vandalised.

Bristol City Council insists it is not a long-term solution. They do understand the need for people to stay warm and dry when rough sleeping, especially in the winter months.

But they warn it is often harder for outreach teams to engage with those living in temporary accommodation such as caravans.

Many have blamed the situation not only the rising cost of rent, but a reduction in housing benefits.

Heather Wheeler, minister for housing and homelessness, said: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live, which is why we are investing £9bn to deliver more affordable homes across this country.

“We have also said that borrowing restrictions will be removed, giving councils the tools they need to deliver a new generation of council housing.”

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