Number of problems in social housing ‘only seem to be getting bigger’, campaigner warns
A housing rights activist has warned that the number of inadequate social homes “only seems to be getting bigger”.
Speaking to the London Assembly’s housing committee, campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa said he was concerned about a growing number of council and association renters struggling with pest infestations, damp and mould.
Asked by committee chair Sem Moema what issues he had seen tenants encounter, Mr Tweneboa said: “How long have I got?
“It’s a very long list. In terms of disrepair, people have had many different issues.
“I’ve been in homes that have been flooded with raw sewage. I’ve been in homes where tenants have had collapsed ceilings, cockroaches, mice, severe damp and mould…
“Tenants have been suffering and not just for the last two years, but for absolute decades…
“What I’ve seen in terms of disrepair is [that] this year it’s been even worse, in terms of tenants that have reached out to me, than last year. The problem only seems to be getting bigger.”
Mr Tweneboa was himself forced to deal with mice and cockroach infestations and what he described as an “asbestos-filled ceiling” at his housing association flat in Mitcham in 2021.
The activist has risen to prominence campaigning on behalf of social housing tenants since that time. He has held meetings both with London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan and with the Conservative Housing Secretary Michael Gove.
Also speaking at the Wednesday meeting was Pat Turnbull, a representative on the London Tenants Federation, who said: “The difficulty is that there has been a huge backlog of underinvestment - or non-investment - in the whole social rented housing sector for more than 40 years.
“I’m pleased that Kwajo had positive discussions with the Secretary of State [for Housing], but the next time you speak to him, Kwajo, can you ask him very firmly to put his money where his mouth is, and put in the billions of pounds that are needed in order to be able to produce the results that are needed in the social housing sector?”
A spokesperson at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Too many homes are not of a decent standard and the Housing Secretary has been clear that he will take tough action on landlords who are not doing right by tenants.
“Our Social Housing Bill will strengthen the rights of tenants, improve the regulation of social housing, and ensure better quality, safer homes.
“We are delivering thousands of affordable homes for both social rent and to buy right across the country through the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme.”
Tom Copley, London’s Labour deputy mayor for housing, has said he is “prepared to withdraw City Hall funding from social landlords who fail when it comes to disrepair”.
He has also said that Mr Khan’s policies “are delivering a new renaissance in council housing”, with “more new council homes were started in London than in the rest of England combined”.