UK: Huge Effort Needed To Fix Housing Issues

Taiwo Ajayi
5 Min Read

A “wartime mentality” is required to improve the lives of tenants and tackle the backlog of housing repairs in Birmingham, campaigners have said.

Birmingham Fair Housing Campaign said was continuing to receive calls from families battling mould and damp, despite assurances from council bosses ongoing issues would be prioritised.

The city council said £1.4bn was ringfenced to tackle the issue.

But tenants fear the city’s financial woes will slow the process down.

READ ALSO: CORBON Urges FHA to Prioritize Licensed Builders for Housing Projects

Birmingham City Council issued a section 114 notice in 2023, effectively declaring itself bankrupt, and has warned that will mean services will have to be cut back.

However, it still hopes to spend £5bn on its housing over the next 30 years, funded through rent and reserves.

Vicky McLaughlin, a mother-of-three from Northfield, has been living in a two-bedroom council house for 12 years and said she had repeatedly complained about the conditions and overcrowding.

Her three sons, aged between five and 12, are sleeping in the same room.

Mould on ceilings and windowsills was treated by contractors in 2022, but it has returned and Ms McLaughlin said her children had suffered poor health.

She said: “When the children were babies they had eczema. My youngest son was hospitalised for two days recently because his skin got badly infected.”

Ms McLaughlin said they now also have asthma now and that she has doctors’ letters to confirm the damp does not help their health.

“I have to clean the mould regularly but with me touching the damp, it affects my chest. You just can’t sleep either,” she added.

Mould on window
Image caption,Residents have complained that Birmingham City Council has not done enough to help
Mould by toilet
Image caption,In many cases black mould has returned after being treated

In Sutton Coldfield, Nikki Costelloe and her four children are living in a two-bedroom council flat on the fourth floor of a tower block.

On the day she spoke to the BBC about conditions inside, the lift had broken, leaving her to bring her disabled daughter down the steps.

“Living here is a nightmare for me and my children,” she said.

“My daughter doesn’t walk and is non verbal, it’s not good quality of life. I’ve got two children in my bedroom and two in another. The council aren’t doing anything to help me. I’m not a priority.”

Exterior of a block of flats
Image caption,Birmingham City Council has promised to spend billions of pounds on its housing

Clare Caudery from Birmingham Fair Housing campaign said: “These experiences sadly are increasingly common.”

But she said she felt reassured after a “positive” meeting with the city council leadership team in the autumn, believing problems across the social housing sector were being addressed.

“We felt that they genuinely want change,” she said.

“They are aware there is a huge problem in the city, but it’s going to require a monumental effort – a wartime mentality – to repair and build new homes.”

Clare Caudery
Image caption,Clare Caudery said she felt encouraged after meeting Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council has said its overall housing budget will require savings of £5.6m this financial year.

However, it said further investment was possible through ringfenced funding and an increase in rent for tenants and leaseholders of 7.7%.

The local authority said it would look to spend £1.4bn over eight years to improve conditions and will continue to build affordable social housing with the support of its partners, such as housing associations and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Jayne Francis, the councillor responsible for housing and homelessness, said she would prioritise investment in the council’s existing council house stock, so the quality of residents’ homes “can be improved as quickly as possible”.

She also said: “Widespread investment is needed as four out of five homes in our housing stock is over 50 years old.

“Existing tenants and leaseholders will see significant improvements in their accommodation – these improvements will cut energy bills and make them safer and warmer.”

The council is under continued pressure to take action to improve homes.

Last year, the Social Housing Regulator identified a series of serious failures following an inspection.

A spokesperson said the body was continuing to “engage intensively” with council officers and commissioners to fix the problems they found.

Source: B.B.C

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