Written evidence submitted by Eastfields Residents Association [RSH 032]
Eastfields Estate, situated in Mitcham, South London, was featured on the ITV news investigation into poor social housing conditions, led by Dan Hewitt in June this year.
Although conditions have improved on Eastfields, (due to the amount of repairs Clarion HG have had to undertake), there is still more work that needs to be done.
We still have a family living with no hot water or heating for the past 8 weeks, despite Clarions knowledge of this case.
We have another case of a resident spending 4 weeks in hospital due to living in damp and mouldy conditions, as every time it rained, the property leaked in numerous places. This case has been ongoing for 4 months, and has yet to be completely resolved.
These are just two cases which I would like to highlight in this submission. There are plenty more.
We have been contacted by numerous other residents living on other estates owned by Clarion, and other housing associations/councils, who are desperate for help and advice as to how they can get their repairs resolved.
It seems as though Social Housing providers do not have the capacity to maintain their stock.
Whether this is a financial issue, or a lack of interest remains needs to be investigated.
It has become apparent that this is a country wide issue, not just a local one.
There is a general lack of empathy, care and respect for tenants.
Social Housing providers need to listen to their residents, they need to find a way to communicate more effectively, not only to their residents, but to their contractors also. Too much time is lost trying to raise a repair and its completion.
After the Regulator looked into what went wrong at Eastfields, it has become apparent to us that nothing will ever change, unless the regulator listens to the residents themselves, rather than just listening to the Housing Association/ Councils side of the story.
I believe one of the areas that the Regulator looks into is whether there is an easily accessible way for tenants to report repairs.
In the case of Clarion, they have a call centre which can be contacted. So as far as the Regulator is concerned, that box has been ticked.
However, it is not taken into consideration that tenants can regularly be on hold for 45 minutes before they actually talk to a customer adviser, who only takes details of the repair and emails this information over to the relevant repairs team. The tenant is told someone will be in touch within 24 hours. But in many cases, this does not happen, leaving the tenant no option but to start the procedure all over again in order to raise the repair.
Bearing in mind, that the vast majority of tenants work for a living, and only have their lunch hour free in order to contact the housing provider, it is unacceptable that they have to spend this amount of time on a regular basis in order to report a repair.
The Ombudsman’s complaints procedure is far too complicated for most people to want to engage with. It needs to be easily accessible, and well published.
Most residents don’t know there is an ombudsman, let alone how to contact them or how to put in a complaint.
I believe the government need to tighten up regulations, bringing in a similar idea to Ofsted to hold housing associations to account.
There needs to be a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one.
Tenants just want to be able to live in a safe, warm home and get on with their lives, just the same as a homeowner is able to do.
But, when things go wrong for a homeowner, they can call an emergency plumber, electrician, roofer to resolve a problem. A tenant is at the mercy of their housing provider. Why should it be any different for them?
We are nearly in the year 2022, yet for many tenants, they are living in conditions resembling a Victorian slum, which were eventually deemed too awful to live in and were all razed to the ground.
Will the government suggest this as a solution the housing providers? Will the government make more funds available in order to bring housing stock up to the decent home standard? Or will they wash their hands of the situation, and expect the housing providers to find a way back from this on their own?
Thank you for taking the time to read my submission.