The Croydon community have criticised the quality of local social housing, despite a recent council pledge to improve the borough’s housing services.
Their comments followed an ITV investigation in March, which showed poor living conditions for some Croydon tenants and alleged that the council was not doing enough to support these residents.
The report led the council to commission an independent investigation into Croydon’s housing standards.
Khadidia Camara, 39, a former resident of Gilroy Court in Thornton Heath, said she believed that the council had failed in its duty of care.
Camara said: “I have witnessed many Croydon residents raising concerns in terms of mould, [sic] safety and size of the rooms. Unfortunately, Croydon Council ignore their plea for assistance. They feel abandoned and voiceless.
“When I was at Gilroy court, [I] had to share the bed with my 15-year-old son for over a year, kept telling them [the council] I couldn’t share a bed with my son. Had [a] bed bug infection on my body and it affected my eye to the point I had to go to the hospital to get Steroid drip.”
The council’s lack of attention towards residents as well as its priorities have also been an issue. Camara said: “Croydon Council doesn’t value their residents because there [sic] are not listened to. They [the council] are quick at sending letters when you are late on your rent, but ignore [you] when you have issue[s] to be dealt with.”
She added: “I don’t have faith in their pledge [to improve housing services] because it has been an ongoing issue . . .”
Croydon council’s plans to improve the services were announced on May 7, after a report led by the real estate consultant, Ark Housing Consultancy, found that the council has been negligent when dealing with the upkeep of housing. The report said in its key finding section: “ARK identified other problems . . . such as a leaking roof, which is causing damp and mould problems to flats in the upper storeys. Once again these appear to be treated as ‘one-off’ repairs.”
The consultancy also found that residents were not treated with the necessary level of care. The report said: “ARK identified an outmoded culture and attitude among a number of Council staff towards tenants. Tenants were often seen as demanding, difficult to deal with and less worthy of respect. Some Council staff lack empathy with tenants, failing to put themselves ‘in their shoes’ when dealing with problems.”
ARK’s report followed a slew of stories in the national media, prompted by an ITV investigation showing council tenants living in flats with festering black mould, dampness and leaks.
Croydon Conservative councillor and Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes, Lynne Hale, agreed that the inadequate services might be part of a systemic problem. Hale said: “Clearly this whole dire situation has not arisen overnight and it is shameful that the Labour-run council has let it go on . . .”
Hale also expressed concerns over the council’s treatment of tenants. She said: “The complete lack of empathy shown by Council staff and their failure to appreciate the difficulties being experienced by residents and to help them is completely unacceptable.”
Croydon council have accepted the report’s findings and have announced that a plan of action will be under way. Leader of Croydon Council, Hamida Ali said in a press release: “ARK’s report raises some very concerning issues about our housing services . . .
“As a result, we are now in the process of beginning a much wider-reaching improvement programme that will transform housing services across the board so that they are fit for purpose.”
Ali has also said that the council will increase its focus on the residents’ needs. She said: “We will also give our council residents a much greater say and involvement in how their housing services are run so that, together, we can be sure they are receiving the well-run quality services that they deserve and that meet their needs.”