Council rejects radical plan to solve Islington’s damp homes crisis because it’s ‘too expensive’

Water drips from a lightbulb in Kike Ogunseye's flat at Colley House in the Hilldrop Estate. Picture

Water drips from a lightbulb in Kike Ogunseye's flat at Colley House in the Hilldrop Estate. Picture: POLLY HANKCOCK - Credit: Archant

A report published last year aimed to find a way to cure Islington of its chronic problems with damp and mould. Last night the council said the more radical recommendation were simply too expensive.

Edward Davies with damaged electricals at his Hanmer Walk flat on the Andover Estate. He has a sever

Edward Davies with damaged electricals at his Hanmer Walk flat on the Andover Estate. He has a severe mould and damp problem. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

A health committee’s radical calls for the council to move tenants made ill by chronic damp – with no questions asked – have proved too good to be true.

In September Islington’s cabinet was handed a report with 12 recommendations on how to tackle the problem blighting the borough’s estates.

The list was based on evidence gathered over 15 months by the health and care scrutiny committee, who believe the widespead problem is causing a spiralling list of illnesses.

The council was told to presume that damp was the reason for medical problems evidenced by anyone living in a damp flat, and to move them if they asked.

They were also told, significantly, to stop blaming people for the condition of their homes and recognise that a lot of Islington’s housing stock is not up to scratch.

But the long-awaited response, signed off by housing boss Cllr Diarmaid Ward, says the recommendation to move people, and another to insulate walls at all affected homes, would be too pricey amid huge government cuts.

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It reads: “A decision to proceed, with in particular [these] recommendations, will mean either diverting capital resources that have been allocated to other projects or reducing the housing management or repairs service to compensate for any increased costs.”

Islington Council is already spending £2million a year tackling the problem and major works are underway at the two worst-hit estates, the Andover in Finsbury Park and Girdlestone in Archway – the latter of which is 95 per cent damp-ridden.

Edward Davies had been living in a mouldy, damp-ridden home for 23 years until the council finally paid contractors to install a vent in his home on the Andover Estate this year. He told the Gazette last year he had always been blamed for the problem and felt “like a tramp”.

Another tenant, Janice Bruce, had to take her son to hospital multiple times due to illnesses stemming from their damp home in Beachcroft Way, Archway. She too said she was blamed for the problem.

The cabinet response says that blame culture is being clamped down on. It said: “We have reviewed our processes when diagnosing damp and mould to ensure that there is no presumption that all damp issues are due to residents’ behaviours.

“Surveyors undertake full inspections to the internal and external elements to all reported properties. Repairs are raised and completed where necessary.

“Before any other possible contributing factors are considered we will ensure the property is free of all internal and external leaks.”

It also points out anyone with health issues living in “unsatisfactory housing” is already prioritised on the housing list.

It also said staff had all received training to ensure the problems were correctly diagnosed, and said it would be reviewing all surveyors’ reports to make sure they were up to scratch after the research showed inconsistency.

Katie White, chairman of the Andover Estate Tenants and Residents’ Association, was not impressed by the decision.

“Shame on them,” she said. “People are living in places that aren’t suitable for them here.

“The majority of houses on the old part of the estate here are really bad.

“It’s quite disgusting how they’ve let it become like this.”