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It took the Hoe family 3 years to be able to call their house a home

Max Hoe & his cat

The end of a relationship sent single mum Karen Hoe and her children, Max, 22 and Dakota, 10, on a three year housing journey for suitable, adaptable, affordable housing. Read about how their life in their new home was hampered by Covid-19, bad planning, poor communication, illness and legal battles with her local authority, which caused endless delays to the family being able to call the new house home.

The new build

Our journey started in 2018 when a relationship breakdown changed our circumstances, which meant we had to find a new home. I spent three years looking for a family home I could afford on a single income; one that was also accessible as my son, Max, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He’s been in a wheelchair since he was 14 - a bad fall fractured his femur and took him off his feet permanently.

In June 2019, I found a new build property that was being advertised as an accessible property. The development, which had been bought from the builders by a housing association, was in the final phase of sales. Importantly, it offered a shared ownership scheme.

I fell in love with the house, a lovely 3-bedroom end terrace plot with a great garden, instantly. It was adaptable and in a safe area. I visited it many times, along with an Occupational Therapist, home improvements team and a lift company, to ensure it was ‘doable’, before signing the contract.

Plan B
However… we couldn’t sell our house, and after four months I was in danger of losing the property.  The housing association was pressuring us to commit to the purchase. I had to explore a plan b to work out how to run/own two properties, which just wasn’t financially viable.

I looked at the HOLD scheme (assistance for young disabled people to be independent in their own home), bridging loans, buying out my ex-partner… everywhere we turned was a dead end.

We were given one month’s notice by the housing association to proceed with the purchase or they would pull out. We were devasted.

March 2020 brought the pandemic and, fortunately, lockdown bought us some time. We finally accepted an offer on our house in June 2020 as lockdown started to ease. However, as I was still paying a mortgage on that property, I couldn’t move forwards and purchase the new one.

After exploring options, with the housing association’s support, we were able to buy the shared ownership property in Max’s name. But we had to jump through hoops and get a solicitor to verify that Max had the mental capacity to own a home with me as his legal guardian.

Adaptations & equipment
Max in his room A mad rush was on to instruct the adaptations team about the work in the new property and get a lift installed so that Max could get upstairs to bed.

We also had to  arrange for equipment to be moved from the old house and installed in the new house on the same day. This is when I discovered that local authority protocol is to install, but not remove, any equipment over five years old - it’s the home owner’s responsibility to do this and pay for it.

Fortunately, I knew our rights regarding taking the specialist bath and toilet with us to the new house. They’d been installed under the previous Disabled Facilities Grant almost 10 years previously, and were still in full working order.

I challenged the local authority who were attempting to charge us £10,000 for removal. This would have meant we couldn’t afford the next property and all our equity would have been lost.

Moving in – the reality
After many meetings and a court case, the local authority agreed a reduced fee - we were able to move in between the first two lockdowns. However, there were further delays due to local authority panel assessments, also we weren’t placed on the priority list for adaptations as we didn’t meet the eligibility criteria.

As a result, Max had to sleep, eat and live in one room of the house for 10 months.

Only as we began to live and function in the new property did we realise how inaccessible it was. The wet room had to be ripped out. The gradient wasn’t right so it flooded the kitchen, ruining new flooring that had just been paid for.

As we were back into lockdown again, there was nowhere for Max to go whilst they did this work. All respite centres were shut. We ended up at a local hotel with an accessible bathroom whilst they did the work.

Christmas 2020 came and went. Max was still living and sleeping downstairs, had no privacy and there was no hoist and tracking system to safety transfer him from wheelchair to the bed. It was an extremely challenging time that took its toll on my health resulting in three prolapsed discs in my neck from the manual handling.

Covid-19 delays, bad planning with builders and, illness caused further delays to the adaptations work, which also took its toll on Max’s mental health.

Home at last
Finally in April 2021 work on the lift began. Max eventually got to see his bedroom for the first time in almost a year and was able to sleep in privacy with the door shut door - pure bliss for him.

This has been a very long road for us with battles, challenges, illness, a tribunal, tears, and many lessons learnt, but somehow we’re now settled in our new home.

Our determination to stay together as a family unit remained our vision. Even though there were many conversations and suggestions that Max should go into independent living and the journey has taken its toll on us all physically and mentally, we now have a place to call home.

Read about Heather Monger's adaptation journey and about the Adaptations: Good Practice Guidance

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