The House That Made Me
By Kacey Brown, Audit and Risk Manager
My first home was a damp and cold Victorian house in Tottenham (mice and all) that had a living room, single bedroom, kitchen and outside toilet with bath. Originally my dad’s bachelor pad and let for peppercorn rent from a family friend. The only positive was being next to my grandparents’ house. It had a ‘bird room’ which housed my Popa’s canary birds and mice, an aviary in the back of the garden, no central heating or hot running water (there was a boiler above the kitchen sink if you wanted any), and no bathroom, just the original outside toilet. But to them, it was home.
Sharing a bedroom eventually progressed to sharing a bed with my parents as there was nowhere else to sleep. The flat was then sold to a private landlord, which is when the fun started. He started out OK but then stopped carrying out repairs, put the rent up, attempted to evict us, turned up to the property unannounced, and damaged my dad’s car. Eventually, dad contacted the local councillor to try to get us a bigger home. I remember a house in Romford offered by the council which had no internal doors, and a garden overrun with dogs from a neighbour who collected caravans on the front lawn. Mum was in tears in the car on the way home and my dad wasn't happy as he was thinking how was he supposed to get to work in Kings Cross from Romford, let alone afford to make the house a home.
Finally, we had a stroke of luck. Another mum at my primary school knew a committee member of a private co-operative estate around the corner, and said she’d try to get us on the waiting list for a flat. In those days you had to be interviewed by a committee before being approved for a flat on the estate. The interview was within days and on the same evening as a primary school play I was in. I didn’t see my parents nip out to leave just my nan watching, but on the way home I recall being taken to a third floor flat in the dark and looking through the letter box being told this was our new home. Mum and dad signed the new tenancy and soon I had my own bedroom.
The flat was run by a committee of residents. Rent was kept low and, after paying off the annual lease payments for the building, was reinvested into the estate. Repairs were done without issue or cost. The flat was warm, large and inviting with hot running water and we had no mice or damp. External decoration took place every couple of years, and we had a private car park, other kids to play with, new double-glazed windows, a new boiler system and radiators, plus an alarm for the property. While at university, I joined the committee as treasurer and we started getting a loan to purchase the estate outright, to give residents more control over repairs and rent. My parents still live there today.
I moved out in 2004 and began searching for my first home. I fell in love with flat in a newly-converted office block in Potters Bar. My wife and I enjoyed our time in Potters Bar, made good friends there and still visit the town. However, with two children and one on the way, our two bedroom flat was feeling increasingly full. The lift constantly broke down, once resulting in a Tesco delivery being refused and my pregnant wife and my dad having to collect it.
We then moved into a house with garden, drive, garage and loft in Cheshunt. We looked in Potters Bar but the town was small, and as soon as a property was on the market word would get around and it would get snapped up.
We’re still in our house in Cheshunt. Our children have moved from primary to secondary schools in the area and we’re happy. Today as I sit at my desk overlooking the brand new blocks appearing across the Wembley skyline, forever reaching higher to touch the stars, I’m reminded that good homes make everything possible.
The house that made me is a new series of blogs by people at Network Homes, recalling what impact their housing experience has had on them.