"The passion came over in how they asked questions," their host shared

March 06, 2019 11:48 AM

Kate Middleton and Prince William learned first-hand how some families in Blackpool have been living in deprived housing — and how the seaside town is working to flip the situation.

In a previously-unannounced stop during their visit to Blackpool on Wednesday, the royal couple were taken to Kirby Road, where the local authorities are exploring innovative ways to bring the rented housing market up to better standards after neglect and mismanagement by landlords.

In one house, walls were covered in black mold and graffiti, with debris littering the floor and children’s toys and a small coat left behind. They had to walk on planks to avoid dangerous rotting floorboards, while water dripped from a ceiling in the living room.

The houses fell into disrepair after being purchased by private landlords, and then been used for multiple occupancy homes. The couple were shown how Blackpool Housing Company — which works with the local council — has stepped in to buy some at a market rate of about $60,000 each, renovated them and then renting them out as warm, safe, family homes.

One side of Kirby Road has been fully renovated while the opposite side remains dilapidated, ready to be done up in the next phase.

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Kate Middleton and Prince William
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Lee Burrell, development director of Blackpool Housing Company, who showed them around, tells PEOPLE, “Families and children are close to their heart and housing standards are a fundamental part of a family’s happiness and they showed a level of passion in terms of children and a level of knowledge of housing related issues.”

“The passion came over in how they asked questions. It was heartening to see such a level of interest in what we are trying to tackle. There was a passion there I probably didn’t expect.”

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Burrell adds, “They were very interested in children and how they could be impacted by the living conditions. They were interested in what we are trying to do to resolve issues and where legislation might help change things.”

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Prince William, Kate Middleton and Christina Jackson
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The royal couple then met Christina Jackson, who lived in a new house after losing $2,000 of her deposit after leaving her old rented property due to large cracks in the wall and peeling paint.

Spotting members of the media covering the visit, William joked “I hope they all wiped their feet,” as they toured her new home.

The prince, 36, asked Jackson if she felt more settled in her new home, while Kate, 37, inquired about her choices of decor.

Jackson told reporters afterwards, “They said the house is absolutely lovely. They’re so down to earth, they really got it. They seem to know everything that was going on and were very understanding.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Kate and William started their busy day on the north west coast of England by visiting the Blackpool Tower, where they joined a roundtable briefing about the town’s recent history and challenges, as the resort town has faced regeneration challenges.

The couple paused briefly as they entered the tower to look at a large mirror that was unveiled by Princess Diana in 1992. As they were told about the history, William smiled and said: “Fantastic. Amazing.”

In the shadow of its famous Eiffel Tower-like structure on the promenade, William and Kate walked on the Comedy Carpet (in the style of the Hollywood Walk of Fame) that decorates the pavement with catchphrases and depictions of jokes, songs and stories – then braved the rain to greet fans.

Kate Middleton and Prince William
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Kate Middleton
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Kate and William’s visit will also include a visit to the Blackpool Central Library – where they’ll take part in  discussions focusing on Kate’s public work on early childhood and William’s devotion to those affected by problems around mental health.

Their final stop will be outdoors at Revoe Park, a community garden that had previously been a known location for drug use. However, a long-term community-led initiative has transformed it into an open space where young children experience gardening and the outdoors, as well as providing space and activities that allow parents, particularly men, to talk about mental health.

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