HOUSING CRISIS: "We have 10 people for every vacant council house in Chesterfield"
Chesterfield families say they feel helpless and have slammed lack of action to repair their mould-ridden homes as fears for the health of their young children grow.
And the town’s MP Toby Perkins has now called for the Right To Buy on new council properties to be suspended and said Chesterfield urgently needs more family sized council homes.
Hollie-Mai Squires said the issues at her one-bedroom flat in Kirkstone Road, Dunston, have been making her feel stressed and worried for her children, one-year-old Elsie-Mai and Oscar, aged four months.
The 23-year-old moved into the property in February 2019, but shortly afterwards began the process of bidding for other Chesterfield Borough Council properties as the damp was becoming an issue.
Hollie-Mai, who also shares the flat with her partner Joshua Walker, said she is still living in ‘disgusting’ and cramped conditions.
She added: “There’s damp and mould all over the ceiling and it’s getting worse. I’ve now got a large crack that runs along my ceiling and have even got damp coming in my hallway and in the bathroom as I’ve no extractor fans.
“I can appreciate due to the pandemic things haven’t been able to be completed within the normal time ratio, however this has been ongoing for well over a year now.
“Elsie is having to sleep right under the mould and damp because there’s no room. The doctors have now said she’s got to be on an inhaler as the damp has caused numerous chest infections.
“Oscar has underlying health conditions too, he suffers with breathing and reoccurring chest problems. He wasn’t breathing when he was born and I even told the hospital I didn’t want to bring him back to a property like this. It’s disgusting.”
The young mum said she last heard from Chesterfield Borough Council over a week ago, but all calls and emails have since been left unanswered.“I applied to the council thinking that I’d get some help; I’ve sent photos, the health visitors and doctors have written letters, I have gotten nowhere,” Hollie-Mai added.
“They’ve just said this flat is big enough to fit two babies in it.
“We are a young working family and feel that we are being slightly penalised; a few weeks ago we were in first place on a property to then be told unfortunately it has gone to someone else. I don’t want anything to happen to my children. I feel very helpless.”
Tammi Evans, 31, who is a full-time carer for her son with autism, moved into her council-owned property in Newbold in 2013 but is now worried how much longer they can live there as she said her walls are ‘falling in’ due to excessive damp and mould.
The mother and her eight-year-old son both have severe asthma and Tammi is fearful about the impact the damp and mould in her home, which causes her carpets to be constantly wet so they have to wear shoes in the house, will have on their health.
She said she first started reporting the problems five years ago when it ‘wasn’t as bad’ but now the issues have escalated to the point where plaster is falling off behind her kitchen cabinets and mushrooms are growing out of the walls.
“Every time I have rung the council I always get told it’s not on our record that you have reported it, I’m absolutely fed up,” Tammi added.She previously bought damp paint to cover the wet patches and treat it herself without bothering Chesterfield Borough Council but the damp has got worse.
Tammi said the local authority previously made an appointment to come out in January of this year but it was cancelled due to the third Covid-19 lockdown.
Tammi said: “Every time it rains I’ve got water coming down my walls.
“I’ve actually had to cover a hole at the bottom of my stairs with a bin bag because it is falling into the house.
“We’ve got floorboards under the bath that are rotten so now I’ve got to have a new bathroom.
“I’ve got to have a new shed roof, plaster in my kitchen, in my toilet, it is horrible.
“It is embarrassing, I feel helpless because I just don’t know what to do any more and I can’t afford to have somebody in to repair it.
“I don’t want to move out of my house; with my son being autistic he doesn’t cope very well with change.
“It is a neverending battle with the damp.”
Derbyshire Times readers also shared their experiences.
Abbie Louise said: “I’m also on Kirkstone Road, and mine is also really bad. Got it in three places. I also have a seven month old.
“Can’t win, been on the housing list over a year and still no closer even though ‘classed as priority’.”
Hannah Tongue added: “Sounds exactly like my house!! My little boy now has to see specialist for his chest and is constantly poorly, I have paint peeling off walls from that much damp, bathroom full of mould, when it rains it all comes into my bedroom.”
Nessie Mummy-bear said: “I moved out of a flat with the council because my baby was constantly poorly and my lungs are ruined from cleaning the black mould off the walls daily.”
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “I am very conscious that we haven’t got enough family-sized council flats or houses in Chesterfield, particularly houses. This is a national problem, partially caused by the fact that we have a Government which promotes the Right To Buy council houses but makes it very expensive for councils to build new ones.
“We have as many as 10 people for every vacant council house and so there is a real problem with getting access to the number of properties that we have.
“It is my view that only suspended Right To Buy on new council properties would enable us to get enough council houses built.
“There is a need for people to do everything they can to ensure their properties are ventilated but there is also a need, as we come out of lockdown for the council to catch up on a considerable backlog of serious housing repairs of this kind.”
Chesterfield Borough Council’s service director for housing Liz Cook added: “We prioritise the health and wellbeing of our tenants and take all reports of damp and mould seriously, with our dedicated team working with tenants to try and resolve issues as quickly as we can.“This is often caused by condensation in the home, and we advise tenants on steps they can take to avoid this, which includes making sure houses are well heated and ventilated.
“We understand that this is an issue for the families affected, but fortunately this is not a widespread problem that is reported in our homes.
“We are currently looking into cases of reported damp and mould in less than 1.7 per cent of council properties.
“We’re also making improvements to our homes to make them more energy efficient and help stop problems like this arising in the first place.
“When we receive a report of damp or mould, our team will investigate and carry out a specialist survey and complete any necessary repairs.
“This might include upgrading existing fans, carrying out a fungicidal wash treatment or installing improved ventilation measures.
“We urge council tenants to keep reporting any issues to us as soon as possible so we can arrange for a member of the team to visit as soon as possible and carry out the repairs.
“Tenants can report any issues by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 5875659 during office hours or 01246 345041 outside of office hours in an emergency.
“The council is committed to improving council housing across the borough and has a number of ongoing investment programmes which include external wall insulation, roof replacements and installation as well as new windows and doors.”
She added Miss Squires’ position had been reviewed in line with the home options allocation policy and confirmed she iseligible for a two-bedroom house.
She added: “We have advised Miss Squires to bid for properties of this size.”