The week in audio: Rental Health; Saturday Night at the Movies; Tim’s Listening Party; Tagged – review
Rental Health (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
Saturday Night at the Movies | Classic FM
Tim’s Listening Party | Absolute FM
Tagged | Somethin’ Else/Sony Music Entertainment
I’m worried about Kieran. He’s doing really well at work and he loves Leeds, where he’s settled, but his home is wrecking his life. He’s in a basement flat, but it’s freezing and the “cracks in the wall, mould on the floor, just the general smell of the flat” are bringing him down.
So why doesn’t Kieran move? Well, he’s trying to. He’s seeing four or five flats a day. Before this flat, he moved seven times in as many years. At the moment, in Yorkshire, the situation for anyone wanting to rent a home is completely impossible. John Hudson, a Grimsby estate agent, explains that renting a property is like applying for a job. His agency makes a video of the property, then “we invite people to look at that video, and then submit a preliminary application form… And then we select perhaps the best two or three candidates to do a direct viewing.” Later, he says: “You sometimes feel like you’re playing God.”
Radio 4’s Rental Health series started and ended last week. Not a full takeover of the station, just a few pointed programmes about the state of the UK’s rented housing, each one packed with devastating facts. In Hunt for a Home, where we met Kieran and many others desperate to rent, we were told that the average house price in the UK is now nine times the average wage. “A ratio not seen since 1876,” said the presenter, Rima Ahmed from BBC Radio Leeds. Other facts: 500,000 homes have been taken out of the English private market since 2018; 40 local authorities didn’t buy or acquire any social housing between 2016 and 2021; on average there are 13 households applying for each new rental. Then, in All Work and No Homes, Pennie Stuart talked to people in Ullapool, in the Highlands, where there are lots of jobs but no homes for those who want to fill them. There are a few available, but they are massively expensive: local house prices are 130% of the Scottish average, wages 87% of the Scottish average.
This is an easy gig for Ross and an easy listen for Classic FMers
Such stark statistics weaved in and around these two programmes, as they did in Solutions – shorter shows offering different approaches to housing. Kirsty Lang discussed Vienna, her home since leaving London. “When it comes to housing, this is another universe,” she says. In what way? Well, after the first world war, Vienna decided to take housing by the scruff of the neck and now it has various city laws that mean that rents are subsidised and housing developers must designate two-thirds of their new buildings as low-income housing. Now, 60% of people living in Vienna enjoy subsidised rent. Lang also visited Tower Bridge in London, to look at houseboat communities, and checked out communal housing in various cities, all very interesting.
In Ullapool, meanwhile, businesses are trying to sort the housing problems themselves, setting up flats and glamping pods so that when they advertise a job, they can say accommodation is provided. In Yorkshire, though, things aren’t getting any better. Landlords are selling up because of increased mortgage payments, a lack of tax relief on mortgage interest and other new rules. Poor Alexandra has never missed a rental payment in 14 years, but her landlord defaulted on a mortgage payment and the bank is about to repossess her flat. She can’t find anything to rent privately, so she’s trying the council. “I will take the tent, I will put the tent in the front of Leeds city council,” she says. “And I will stay there.” According to Shelter, there are 1 million people across the country on the council house waiting list.
All of the Rental Health programmes were excellent, though I did wonder where the ministers were. The series can suggest all the solutions in the world, but it’s national government that needs to take them on.
Here are two people with nice new homes. Jonathan Ross has taken over the Saturday Night at the Movies slot on Classic FM, previously hosted by Andrew Collins. At one point in his career, Ross would rely on his fly-by-the-seat natural presenting charm rather than in-depth research. Not so much now; plus, when it comes to film he’s had years of expertise. In a nicely pitched programme about European film, he described hanging out with Pedro Almodóvar, discussed Fellini, recommended obscure French movies. Occasionally his links seemed a bit “read”, but this is an easy gig for Ross and an easy listen for Classic FMers.
Another engaging host with a new place is Charlatans singer Tim Burgess, whose pandemic Twitter creation Tim’s Listening Party has found an audio home at Absolute. His first show featured the new Fall Out Boy album, complete with Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz and Andy Hurley from the band. I’m not a FOB fan, but you would need a heart far harder than mine not to love this show. Burgess is an adorable host, natural and relaxed with musicians, experienced in talking about records as an art form. Any band would kill to get their LP played and treated with such respect.
Just room to mention the lively, if occasionally irritating new podcast drama series Tagged. It’s about Instagram influencers (isn’t everything?) who might be being stalked, though really it’s about how well a young married couple know each other. The plot points are ludicrous, plus influencers would spend a lot more time checking their feed, but everything lickety-splits along and this is a sunny, fun, modern murder mystery that somehow overlaps with The New Nomads (another Rental Health programme).