Sheffield MP ‘inundated’ by council tenants living in life-threatening squalor
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In one case, a seven-person family was living in a two-bed property covered in damp and mould with four children sleeping in one bedroom only big enough for cots.
Ms Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said the family’s two-year-old was admitted to hospital because he was suffering from bronchitis, which the hospital said was caused by damp and mould from the home.
The family works hard to keep the house as clean as possible by wiping down the walls and surfaces several times a day but to no avail, Ms Haigh said.
She has asked council housing officers to properly tackle repairs for many years but said too many homes were still unacceptable, forcing many to live in squalor.
She added: “Families across the city and in my constituency are being forced to live in unacceptable conditions. I have been in touch with the council about this case numerous times, and the response that I’m getting back from them is that this is a problem caused by how the family is living.
“I’m demanding that action is taken on this case immediately and the family are moved from this property into one that is in a good condition and safe for them.
“I’ll keep advocating for this family and the hundreds more that live in these unacceptable conditions. We need to see urgent investment from the government to bring our housing stock up to standard and urgent attention from the council.”
Sheffield Council did not comment.
Damp and mould task force
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Regulator of Social Housing asked local authorities to prove they were fulfilling legal obligations following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died of a respiratory condition caused by damp and mould in his Rochdale home.
In response, the council set up a task group to review and tackle cases across social and private housing.
There are currently 286 outstanding damp and mould cases and 1,112 mould cases requiring halophane treatment – which kills the roots of mould – in Sheffield council housing.
Dean Butterworth, head of housing investment and maintenance, said the first meeting of the task group is expected to take place this month.
He said Awaab’s death needed to be a wake-up call for all landlords, both private and social.
Council housing repairs backlog
The latest figures showed there were 14,038 logged repairs, of which 6,193 were overdue.
Councillor Douglas Johnson, chair of the housing committee, said the availability of suitable contractors, skilled trades people and some materials was proving challenging.
As a result of the backlog, the number of council tenants taking the authority to court over disrepairs had doubled.
A recent council finance report stated the authority’s expected spending on legal fees fighting these claims had rocketed from £2.6 million to £5.2 million this year.