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Over a quarter of Camden’s council homes fail standards test

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 April 2015

The Chalcot  tower block that underwent repairs by Camden Council

The Chalcot tower block that underwent repairs by Camden Council

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More than a quarter of all council homes in Camden are failing key government health, safety and quality standards – five years after a deadline given to local authorities to ensure all social housing is adequate.

Parents Jenny Sheehan and Roy Burstow saw their daughter Poppy-Leigh's health deteriorate due to mould at their 'nightmare' council flat in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly HancockParents Jenny Sheehan and Roy Burstow saw their daughter Poppy-Leigh's health deteriorate due to mould at their 'nightmare' council flat in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly Hancock

A report published by Camden Council this week reveals 28 per cent – or almost 6,500 – of the council’s housing stock is deemed “non decent”, with officers warning poor housing has “direct health risks” for tenants.

The figures come well after the government’s 2010 deadline given to local authorities in 2000 to ensure social housing is of an adequate living standard.

The “Decent Homes” standard (DHS) demands social housing: be free of health and safety hazards; be in a reasonable state of repair; have reasonably modern kitchens, bathrooms and boilers; and be reasonably insulated.

Mould, damp, electrical faults, heating problems, and vermin are just some of the problems the DHS initiative aims to fix.

Mould that plagued the Sheehan family's flat contributed to the one-year-old daughter's ill healthMould that plagued the Sheehan family's flat contributed to the one-year-old daughter's ill health

But despite 15 years since local authorities were set the target, the council still suffers a DHS failure rate twice the national level.

Over the years, many readers living in council housing have contacted the Ham&High to complain about the state of their homes.

Our last story on the issue, reported back in October, saw the case of council tenant Jenny Sheehan suffering such severe mould in her flat in Hilgrove Road, Swiss Cottage, that her GP said it was damaging the health of her two-year-old daughter.

Ms Sheehan’s home also suffered from a mice infestation, broken central heating unit and a faulty shower that left them at risk of electrocution. She said three years of complaints to the council went unheard.

Speaking to the paper this week, she said: “Since we contacted the Ham&High the council carried out repairs we needed to the bathroom. But to fix the mould they just painted over it. They didn’t apply any treatment. Their quick-fix solution means the mould has now returned. We’re a family of three who eat, sleep and live in just one room that is suffering mould – it’s not healthy or safe.

“I know my neighbours, also in council homes, are experiencing the same problem.”

Margaret Morahan, 71, contacted the Ham&High in 2013 after mould in her Kentish Town flat aggravated her lung disease.

She said this week: “They never fixed the mould in the end. The council just told me to clean it with Milton cleaner. I’m 71 and suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – I don’t have the energy. By the end, the mould had destroyed my bed, settee and clothes. The council’s housing repairs service is a disgrace.

“But, after years of suffering, in October the council moved me out and into a lovely new home.”

While still performing poorly when compared to neighbouring borough Islington – which has more social housing and yet reports zero per cent “non decent” homes – Camden Council has made progress in dealing with the issue. Responsible for 23,414 social homes, it has seen its level of “non decent” housing fall from 91.5 per cent in 2003/4 to 28 per cent in 2014. The council hopes to see zero per cent by 2019/20.

Cllr Julian Fulbrook, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have made significant progress, including new kitchens, bathrooms and windows in thousands of homes, and we’ve upgraded estate heating systems.

“We will be investing £305million in further upgrade works over the next five-years.”


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