BBC examines Rental Health with a series of special programming across Radio 4, 5 Live and BBC News

A series to shine the spotlight on the UK’s ‘Rental Health’, hearing from tenants, landlords, house hunters, agencies and experts


BBC Radio 4

For many people across the UK, particularly those who are young or from a low-income background, homeownership is out of reach. But how healthy is the rental market? With soaring costs, competition for properties and a lack of social housing, renting isn’t always a straightforward solution.

In a series of special programming across the BBC, Radio 4, 5 Live and BBC News will shine the spotlight on the UK’s ‘Rental Health’, hearing from listeners - tenants, landlords, house hunters, agencies and experts - unlocking the stories hidden behind front doors across the country.

What impact is the lack of rental properties having on local economies and the cost of living? What rights do tenants and landlords have when it comes to evictions? How easy is it to find accessible rental accommodation if you are disabled?

With the help of our listeners, BBC programmes will attempt to answer all this and more.

Money Box Live and You and Yours will delve into the world of renting with perspectives from renters and landlords alike, tackling the issues and searching for solutions.

BBC File on 4 will investigate unhealthy social housing conditions and the residents forced to put up with them.

Kirsty Lang will team up with experts to look for solutions in a special five part series called Rental Health: Solutions.

Documentaries on Radio 4 will take listeners to meet the ‘new nomads’ embracing roadside living, as well as explore the renting crisis from remote parts of Scotland to the bustling city centre of Leeds.

There will also be a special programming across the week on BBC Radio 5 Live with listeners sharing their views on 5 Live Breakfast and with Stephen Nolan. 5 Live Breakfast will focus on the issues for people with disabilities trying to find accessible affordable places to rent with Presenter Emma Tracey.

BBC Radio 5 Live will also be looking at the discrimination some people are suffering when trying to find rental properties; for example if they have several children. They will also hear the stories from house hunters who’ve had to join huge queues outside houses and taken part in ‘speed dating’ style interviews with prospective housemates asking very personal questions.

On Saturday 25 March Stephan Nolan will be discussing “how have we got here?” with experts and listeners stories.

BBC News will investigate the rights of both renters and landlords with Cost of Living correspondent Colletta Smith, as well as the challenges of finding a home with rising price increases and demand. Reporter Jim Connolly investigates cases of illegal evictions and harassment.

Mohit Bakaya, Director of Speech Audio and Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra said: “With the rising cost of rent, an increased number of people flat-sharing, and home-ownership unattainable for many, it’s a good time to take the temperature of the nation’s Rental Health. Across BBC Radio 4, 5 Live and BBC News we will unpack the issues, search for solutions and share insightful stories brought to us by our listeners.”

BBC Radio 4 programme highlights below with more to be confirmed:

Monday 21 March

File on 4, 8pm

File on 4 investigates unhealthy social housing conditions and the residents forced to put up with them.

Sunday 26 March

Rental Health: The New Nomads 1.30pm - 2pm

The roads and byways of the British Isles are home to a new generation of travellers. Alongside the traditional Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities there’s a booming sub-culture of van dwellers who prefer the open road to bricks and mortar.

For some it's a lifestyle choice. They spend the summer moving from festival to festival, picking up casual jobs as they go. They celebrate their light touch on the planet and those who can afford it take the snowbird route for the winter, heading south through Spain. For increasing numbers, however, there's less glamour in 'van life'. Rapidly rising rents force them into vehicles and a long, cold winter searching for welcoming roadside stops with toilets and taps.

Travel writer and broadcaster, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent has spent many months living out of her own battered VW van. She understands the fantasy and the practical difficulties. In the New Nomads she hears about both sides of van life and discovers new challenges on the horizon. For many travellers- traditional and new- the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of 2022 feels specifically designed to make their lives as difficult as possible. It creates a new offence of “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle” and makes it easier for the police to remove unauthorised encampments.

Fresh ideas are helping the increasing number of van dwellers. In Bristol, brownfield areas are being turned into temporary spaces for vans and caravans. The residents are happy with these cheap and cheerful campsites but demand far outstrips supply. Unless more affordable homes are built it seems inevitable that more and more young people will have little choice but the open road.

Producer: Alasdair Cross
Presenter: Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

Monday 27 March

Rental Health: All Work and No Homes, 11am - 11.30am

Communities in the Scottish Highlands are facing a housing crisis so bad, it’s been described as a clearance for the 21st century. According to the Convenor of the Highland Council, Bill Lobban, “the species most under threat in the Cairngorms National Park isn’t the Capercaillie but the young family trying to find a home”. Ironically one key cause of the problem is also what brings most into the local economy – tourism. Across the region the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry is driving the demand for second homes and many houses are now used for short-term holiday lets, with the result that very little accommodation remains for locals searching for somewhere to live, what does remain is usually unaffordable or unsuitable. The knock-on effect is that businesses across the Highlands are struggling to find staff and even when they manage to find them, they often lose them because there’s no rental accommodation locally. A sector which has been particularly hard hit is hospitality where low wages exacerbate the issue with the result that hotels and restaurants find themselves in the unenviable position of having plenty of customers but not enough staff to serve them.

Often, the only way many businesses can secure staff is if they provide accommodation but that’s not always suitable for long term employees and skilled staff who might have young families plus not all businesses can afford to buy or manage housing for their staff.

It’s not just the hospitality sector either which is suffering, the salmon farming industry is being hit hard too and it’s not just low paid, all professions are being priced out of the housing market by too many people chasing too few properties.

In Rental Health: All Work No Homes Pennie Stuart heads first to the northwest Highland village of Ullapool to hear how the business community is responding to the unintended consequences of the tourism boom while further south in Aviemore, in the heart of the Cairngorms national park, she hears about the radical solutions being proposed to bring staff, homes and tourism back into some kind of balance.

Producer: Dan Holland
Presenter: Pennie Stuart

Rental Health: Solutions 1/5, 1.45pm-2pm

As the cost of rent continues to rise across the UK, Kirsty Lang looks for solutions. This is the first of a series of five programmes which explore some radical alternatives.

In Barcelona, the landscape for public housing is currently being transformed. In Vienna, subsidised housing provides homes for 60 per cent of the population. Kirsty will meet pioneers in a new way of living that is also affordable: Zarinah Agnew in San Francisco, who is creating both local and global shared communities, and Bill Phelps in Leeds, who has just helped to launch a co-housing scheme with local residents.

For many of the people Kirsty meets, this isn’t just a matter of cost - it’s about community. That includes a houseboat mooring on the Thames, whose founder, Nick Lacey, has ideas for a new development of floating houses. Kirsty Lang’s conversations with architects, planners, residents and entrepreneurs will offer fresh ways of thinking about the housing crisis.

Producer: Jo Glanville
Produced for Radio 4 by BBC Audio in Bristol

Rental Health: Hunt for a Home, 8pm-8.30pm

As tenants desperately try and secure their application for a home, competition is fierce – often dozens of people vying for a single property. With landlords selling up, and mortgages increasingly unattainable, finding somewhere is tough. Who’s coming for a viewing, why are they looking right now, and what’s causing this imbalance in supply and demand? Rima Ahmed of BBC Radio Leeds hears from tenants, landlords and estate agents in her city and beyond as they give us a snapshot of a housing market out of balance. They tell their stories of what life is like in a housing market that has changed beyond recognition in a short space of time.

Producer: Johnathan I’Anson

Tuesday 28 March

Rental Health: Solutions 2/5, 1.45pm-2pm

As the cost of rent continues to rise across the UK, Kirsty Lang looks for solutions. Kirsty Lang talks to two pioneers in the houseboat community, who now have plans to develop low-cost floating housing for rental on the Thames.

Producer: Jo Glanville
Produced for Radio 4 by BBC Audio in Bristol

Wednesday 29 March

You and Yours, 12pm

The team will explore social housing and a new rental scam.

Rental Health: Solutions 3/5, 1.45pm-2pm

As the cost of rent continues to rise across the UK, Kirsty Lang looks for solutions. Communal housing has moved on since the days of hippy communes in the 60s and 70s. Kirsty Lang talks to founders of communal living and co-housing in San Francisco, Vienna and Leeds.

Producer: Jo Glanville
Produced for Radio 4 by BBC Audio in Bristol

Money Box Live, 3pm

Felicity Hannah presents. Helping listeners with their rental issues.

Thursday 30th March

Rental Health: Solutions 4/5, 1.45pm-2pm

As the cost of rent continues to rise across the UK, Kirsty Lang looks for solutions. Barcelona is rolling out a radical housing policy that is transforming the face of affordable living in the city. Kirsty Lang finds out how it all began.

Producer: Jo Glanville
Produced for Radio 4 by BBC Audio in Bristol

Friday 31 March

Rental Health: Solutions 5/5, 1.45pm-2pm

As the cost of rent continues to rise across the UK, Kirsty Lang looks for solutions. Most of the population in Singapore own their homes and very few rent, because home ownership is affordable. Kirsty Lang discovers how Singapore made it possible.

Producer: Jo Glanville
Produced for Radio 4 by BBC Audio in Bristol

Source BBC Radio 4

March 17, 2023 3:00am ET by BBC Radio 4  

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