“I feel trapped.” “Nobody is listening to me – that’s what it feels like.” “My mental health is going downhill rapidly due to this,” are just some of the hundreds of comments our public face heard from tenants living in Folkestone & Hythe District Council social housing stock managed by East Kent Housing. Serious disrepair and safety issues are evident wherever one looks across the Council’s housing stock.
At Overview & Scrutiny Committee last night Cllrs, Head of Paid Service for Folkestone & Hythe District Council Dr. Susan Priest (pictured below left) and Chief Executive of East Kent Housing (EKH) Deborah Upton (pictured below right) were present to discuss the Gas Safety Certificate fiasco and other significant emerging issues.
However, one thing nobody touched upon were the issue of disrepair and safety to many of the properties owned by F&HDC and managed by EKH. That’s because it was not on the agenda when it should have been. Gas Safety Certificates, electrical issues, overcharging, potential fraud are important, but so to is the state of our Council owned housing stock.
Question: When does anybody in East Kent Housing, or the Councils go out and visit the housing stock they maintain for and behalf of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils?
It’s clear from this image taken less than a week ago, not very often. And we saw plenty of flourishing gardens such as this across much of the housing stock in East Kent.
Would you like a down pipe which takes away raw sewage and other material leaking in through your window and down your walls? No! Thought not. This is what East Kent Housing tenants are having to put up with, even if they log the matter with EKH, nothing gets done.
Even with windows open and the flats ventilated, conditions regarding mould is rife across many properties. We could show you literally hundreds of pictures like the one below from all across the housing stock owned by the four councils and managed by EKH. This is what working families are having to pay for.
My mental health is going downhill rapidly due to this,” says the tenant gesturing at the black-green spores.
Now under the Housing health and safety rating system damp and mould such as above is a category one hazard. The tenant in this flat provided evidence of emails and telephone calls to EKH. Five months on nothing has been done. Nobody has been to visit. The walls have been bleached yet the mould returns in less than a fortnight. It is NOT a ventilation issue.
And this is how people repair things in an EKH managed property. Holes left in something which was plastered. And yes the paint is peeling because of damp.
And internally water continues to leak through the ceiling of a good number of tenants properties affecting the lights in their bathrooms. So much so they cannot use them, so have to bathe in the dark.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council have contracted Mila Maintenance & Installation to repair, maintain and replace windows and door across the F&HDC housing stock. However, this window needs fixing and not just this one, we saw a good number just like it.
It’s great there is a forensic investigation into the overcharging by P & R which was known about as long ago as March/April 2018.
It’s great these investigations will hopefully uncover how our F&HDC and EKH got it so badly wrong. And it’s great these investigations may potentially lead to some criminal prosecutions. But what’s not great is how insecure these buildings are especially given that some very vulnerable people live in them.
Our public face did a walk around of several EKH managed properties just last week. He had no difficulty in accessing many of the properties due to doors being broken. Below is a video he made while walking around Rowan Court in St Peter’s Street Folkestone.
While our paid Cllrs and highly paid Head of Paid Service of F&HDC and Chief Executive of EKH sat on their rear ends at Overview on Scrutiny on the 16/07/19 pontificating about how they got into the mess, they might want to think about fixing the disrepair which is so evident across much of the local council housing stock. The sooner the better, as no tenant should have to live in such conditions.
So no Cllr except Cllr David Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Housing, Transport and special projects, the Council’s board member on the EKH board, and his predecessor former Cllr David Owen, could see what was in the pipe or coming down it.
We will be coming back to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting held yesterday, but for now, we ask one question. Will the Overview & Scrutiny Committee members get of their rear ends and go visit some of the local council housing stock? This way they would see for themselves the shocking conditions some of our most vulnerable tenants live in. Then, and only then, could they begin fixing the whole problem rather than part of it.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful