Concern about the maintenance and repair of London’s social rented housing has lately been vividly and publicly expressed by two of the capital’s politicians.
One of them was Tom Copley, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, who in an interview with Inside Housing (paywall), said “there’s no doubt the sector itself has collectively dropped the ball. They’ve not been as focused on management and standards as they should be”. He added that housing providers receiving funding from City Hall who fail to meet the standards they should faced “a very real risk” of losing out. New funding conditions are being introduced.
The other was Ben Coleman, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement conference last month he told a session about health issues “there is nowhere in the country where the repair service is adequate” and said he had become “so frustrated with the lack of action at my own council” he asked the borough’s public health director to “go in there and tell them to get their finger out on public health grounds”.
The problem of mould in social homes and the health danger it presents was brought horribly to public attention last autumn when a coroner concluded that a two-year-old child living in a one-bedroom housing association flat died from a respiratory condition brought about by exposure to it. That was in Rochdale. But the problem of social housing in poor condition in London has been highlighted by a lot of recent media coverage.
This is also reflected in recent investigations by the government’s Housing Ombudsman, who is currently Richard Blakeway, who was deputy mayor for housing during Boris Johnson’s City Hall tenure. Here are his London adjudications from 2023 so far:
On 31 January, following its special report about the landlord, the Ombudsman made two findings of “severe maladministration” against the Clarion housing association. A resident in south London told Clarion that “the ceiling in the bathroom was hanging off the wall” and the flat smelled of mould. Four months after a formal complaint had been made nothing had been done, the state of flat was even worse and rainwater was coming in. “There was little indication that the landlord considered the resident’s concerns about the living conditions in the property,” the Ombudsman concluded.
On 26 January the Ombudsman made two findings of “severe maladministration” against Spitalfields Housing Association after it failed to show that it took the steps required after a resident reported “an extensive leak” in their home which caused flooding resulting in damage.
On 19 January an investigation was launched into the L&Q housing association and Haringey Council following “persistent poor performance over damp and mould complaints”.
On 12 January “severe maladministration” was found on the part of the A2Dominion housing association for failing to fix “various problems with a [south London] resident’s heating and hot water supply over a number of years”. The resident was left with no heating or hot water.
On 10 January “severe maladministration” was found on the part of the Wandle housing association after it failed to address a resident’s fire safety concerns.
As well the above cases, in December 2022 the Ombudsman launched an investigation into Islington Council due to its “poor handling of damp and mould reports and resulting complaints”.
It seems there’s plenty to be concerned about. On London will follow the Ombudsman’s progress and investigations in London with interest.
Dave Hill: The government’s housing Ombudsman is being kept busy in London