Tenants 'horrified' as plans emerge to sell listed Newcastle homes plagued by damp and mould

Mikey Tynemouth outside his home in Summerhill Grove, Newcastle
Mikey Tynemouth outside his home in Summerhill Grove, Newcastle -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

“Horrified” tenants who have battled to have major problems with their listed homes rectified have been told they will have to leave, after the owners decided to sell up.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last year how two Georgian properties in Newcastle’s Summerhill conservation area, near the city centre, had fallen into a state of serious disrepair. City council bosses served prohibition notices last summer on three flats within 3 and 4 Summerhill Grove, with some properties deemed unfit to live in having become plagued by damp, mould and leaks.

Residents of the building’s 14 apartments have accused housing association Riverside, which took charge of the site in 2006, of neglect and pressured bosses to undertake the substantial repairs needed at the historic homes. But the renters, some of whom have lived in the attractive Summerhill Grove for decades, have been dealt a hammer blow this week.

Riverside bosses have announced that they have chosen to sell the flats, which they say need a further £1 million of renovations on top of £433,000 spent since 2021, as they “unfortunately do not present a long-term solution for social housing”. After complaining for years about the condition of the buildings and enduring turmoil which has seen some tenants moved into hotels after last summer’s council crackdown, news that they will now have to find somewhere else to live has come as a colossal disappointment to the occupants.

Resident Mikey Tynemouth told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he was left “shocked, stunned, and horrified” after a meeting with Riverside bosses on Wednesday. He said: “They are taking 14 homes out of the social housing market in Newcastle and it is only because they have not done the work in the first place [to maintain them].”

Mr Tynemouth added: “If they cared about the houses, their reputation, the area, and the tenants then they would have maintained the buildings properly from the get go. This is entirely down to them, their negligence and their refusal to do the appropriate work.”

Riverside has blamed the “complex nature” of the houses, the extent of the repairs needed and restrictions posed by their grade II listed status for the decision to sell. They have pledged to support tenants “every step of the way through their relocation” and have offered compensation payments of more than £18,000 each.

3 and 4 Summerhill Grove are in a 'serious state of disrepair'
Evidence of disrepair at Summerhill Grove last year -Credit:ChronicleLive

No timescale has been given for when the buildings are expected to be sold or when residents will move out, while Riverside has pledged that it will continue to carry out maintenance on 3 and 4 Summerhill Grove while people are still living there. It is understood that the buildings are not yet on the market, but the prospect of going on the city’s lengthy social housing waiting list has left tenants fearful.

A notice on the Newcastle Homes website, which advertises social housing on behalf of the council and other registered providers, warns that there are nearly 9,000 households on its waiting list and that some “may wait several years before being offered a property that meets their specific needs or that is in their preferred area”.

Ashleigh Gibson had been moved out of her basement flat into a hotel before recently being moved back into a different apartment in Summerhill Grove just last month, but now faces having to leave once again. She called the Riverside’s decision “disgusting” and said it felt like a “punitive” measure against tenants who had fought for improvements in their living conditions.

Another resident who has lived in the buildings since 1989 told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that she felt “betrayed by Riverside”. The tenant, who asked not to be named, said she expected that a property developer would be able to charge “three or four times” more on the private market than what existing residents pay in social rent rates.

A spokesperson for Riverside said: “This was not a decision we took lightly. We carefully considered all the evidence put forward which included customer feedback through the independent customer consultation process, building survey reports, the level of current and previous investment made to the building and the repairs and investment risks.

“We met in person with our customers to explain the reasons behind it and apologised for the situation this has left customers in. We have a continued responsibility to ensure the building as a whole and the individual properties within it are well maintained and safe for our customers. Riverside has invested over £430,000 in the building since 2021 and it has been estimated that in excess of a further £1,000,000 is needed; however due to the building’s makeup, its long-term energy performance is likely to remain poor, creating longer term heating and damp issues.

“As a charitable organisation, we have a duty to be a financially prudent and responsible organisation, and through our review, it was concluded that these homes unfortunately do not present a long-term solution for social housing.

“We are supporting all our customers individually with ongoing help and guidance to find a new permanent home. We recognise and apologise for the impact and disturbance they are facing and so we are offering a financial compensation package made up of three elements: a standard home-loss payment of £8,100; an enhanced Riverside discretionary payment; and disturbance costs to help with the relocation. We understand how disruptive this move will be and are committed to supporting our customers every step of the way through their relocation.

“We understand that this will be an uncertain time for customers and recognise the importance of helping them secure a permanent home as quickly as possible. Our housing team will work collaboratively with customers to support them through the relocation and help them find a home that meets their needs, this will include a housing needs assessment, registration on Newcastle Homes and help and guidance to secure a new permanent home.”