Pregnant single mother moved from mould infested flat by council – only to spend 11 weeks in cramped room with two children

Dariana Baez Peña Pic: Dariana Baez Peña

By Patrick Harrington and Jordana Seal

A pregnant single mother of two, featured last week in a well publicised visit to her mould infested Catford flat by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is still living in a cramped room with her two young children.

The visit was made to highlight the dire conditions of some private properties in London.

In September, Dariana Baez Peña, who is due to give birth tomorrow by elective cesarean, and her children, aged four and 12, were moved out of the Catford propery into temporary accommodation in Crystal Palace. This arrangement was supposed to be for six weeks, but eleven weeks later, they are still there. 

However, following inquiries by Eastlondonlines, Lewisham Council now say a replacement property has been found for them. 

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “As the private landlord Dariana was previously renting from failed to carry out repairs to address the damp and mouldy conditions she was living in, we were forced to prohibit the property and rehouse Dariana and her family in temporary accommodation.

“Given the severe shortage of suitable temporary accommodation in London, Dariana’s family were temporarily moved into a hostel with shared facilities.”

Lewisham Council added today: “We have been working to find more suitable temporary accommodation for Dariana and her family and have now secured a two-bedroom self-contained flat for them to move into.”

Peña and her 2 children are living in one room in Crystal Palace. Pic: Patrick Harrington

The Catford property was dubbed “the worst house” a licensing office had ever seen. For a year the family lived without heating or hot water in a house riddled with black mould.  

Peña is originally from the Dominican Republic, but has lived in London for eight years. She spoke to ELL via a Spanish interpreter.

She has been desperate to move before giving birth. She told ELL: “My other children won’t be able to sleep when the baby cries at night.”  

Last week, Sadiq Khan and a selection of Lewisham councillors visited Peña’s unsuitable property to publicly condemn irresponsible private landlords. 

Khan posted on X a video of him touring the house with the caption: “Rent privately in London? Watch this.” Khan’s visit was covered by the BBC.  

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing and Residential Development, posted images of the visit, and Sadiq Khan retweeted the post.

Despite the visit, Peña and her 2 children continued to live in temporary accommodation – a single room with a communal kitchen. Peña told ELL: “I think they used my house as a public show, because I’ve had no contact with the council since. I call them every day.” 

Although now in Crystal Palace, she retains a support network in Lewisham. One of her children still goes to nursery in Catford, but cannot attend every day.

She said: “I am very worried because sometimes my children don’t go to school, because it is so far away.”  

Mehnoor Manik, Peña’s property negotiator, said: “The main reason it’s taking so long to provide a property for Dariana is supply issues, she can’t afford any of the available properties.” 

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told ELL: “The Mayor has huge sympathy for Dariana Baez Peña and appreciates her showing him the awful conditions she and many others in privately rented accommodation are having to endure. 

“Every Londoner has the right to a safe and secure home.” 

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