Sheffield MP speaks out about housing horrors in her constituency

A Sheffield MP has exposed the housing horrors her constituents are facing and promised to hold government’s “feet to the fire” to make improvements.
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Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, gave a speech on the housing crisis saying people in her constituency and across the country were paying the price of years of failed policy and government inaction.

She said the proposed renter reform and social housing regulation bills in the latest Queen’s Speech were “once in a generation” opportunities to build a new and improved system.

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Ms Blake said: “Since I was elected in 2019, not a week has gone by in which I have not heard horror story after horror story from people in my Sheffield constituency about mould, damp, exposed asbestos, broken appliances, rats, vermin and many other issues.

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam.Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam.
Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam.

“Tenants are afraid to speak out in case they face eviction or cannot re-sign their contract the following year. Renters are being gradually priced out of areas by landlords who are unchecked, unchallenged and feel no consequence for their actions.”

She highlighted one case in Hallam where a family cannot put furniture against the walls because it causes cavities where black mould builds up.

Across Sheffield 28 percent of private rentals and four percent of social rented housing have category one hazards such as excess cold or risk of falls, according to a report by Shelter.

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Ms Blake added: “To make matters worse, my constituents themselves are often unfairly blamed for the hazards. I constantly hear of people being told that the black mould in their properties is because of their own ventilation problems and that they need to open their windows more and bleach their walls. Often, these families have been sitting in the cold with their windows open all year round, constantly running dehumidifiers, at great cost. One family has even innovatively—albeit sadly—been using sticky-back plastic on their walls and replacing it every few months to remove the mould.

“Given the rising energy costs, problems such as those I have described are all the more concerning.

“The impacts are far-reaching: I have seen numerous cases of new or worsening asthma in children, formally recorded by doctors as likely to be linked to their living in mouldy or damp housing conditions. Other families have reported repeat infections. We are returning to the 1800s.

“My constituents are not only paying the price with their physical health; every single person I speak to with housing issues is also experiencing poor mental health. Living in conditions unfit for human habitation is devaluing. It makes people feel as if they do not matter. The stress of having constantly to complain and chase up repairs comes at a cost for people because they are having to take multiple days off work to try to resolve the issues and to protect their families.”

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She said the housing market was “fundamentally broken” and the pandemic had exposed worsening cracks in the sector and pushed more people into long-term homelessness, debt and precarity.

Sheffield saw a 46 percent rise in the number of private renters claiming housing benefits between 2020 and 2021.

Ms Blake said it was clear more affordable housing needed to be built but Sheffield, like others, had seen a year on year decline.

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