Every week, I visit people living in homes with leaks, mould, damp, overcrowding, holes in the ceilings, rodent problems: conditions their landlords (whether housing association, council or private) wouldn’t tolerate for their families for a single day.
One thing stands out: the resilience of people living in bad conditions is remarkable, but what often causes the most despair is the way their issues are dealt with (or more often, not).
The way they’re spoken to on the phone, being made to explain their problem for the 10th or 20th time, their issue not even been logged on the system, the issue logged as “fixed” when it hasn’t been, being made to fill in online forms over and over again but never getting a reply.
Repair teams turning up without notice, repair teams not turning up at all, housing officers ignoring their calls, leaks being fixed but the hole in the wall or ceiling the plumber made to fix it being left for months, being asked if you can stay with a friend, being told to open more windows, to dry clothes outside.
I could go on, the point here is one of culture.
That we have a housing crisis is beyond doubt, successive governments have not built enough affordable homes to rent and there is a chronic shortage of social housing.
That doesn’t mean housing associations and councils have to treat tenants without respect. Councils are often short-staffed and that plays a part, though you don’t need money to speak to people properly on the phone. Looking particularly at housing associations: the big ones turnover big sums of money and CEOs pay themselves generous wages. The money is there.
ITV News spoke to Junior Jimoh and Terrie Pring about how bad housing is impacting their lives.
Also, contrast the speed at which housing associations and councils contact the tenant when their rent is a day late. So many residents have told me they get a call/email immediately if there has been a problem/delay with their rent payment - the same people living in damp, mouldy, homes in disrepair.
There are long-term, systemic problems beyond housing associations and councils' control, but they can treat residents better - not patronise them, log complaints properly, not make them fill in forms they don’t reply to, not tell them to call their housing officer if they’re too busy to answer.
After Grenfell, the Hackitt Report said a cultural change was needed in construction.
Having covered housing for months now, it is clear a cultural change is needed in how social housing tenants are treated. It’s not a secret, but we don’t talk about it enough.It's worth adding that the independent inquiry into Croydon housing and a separate report by the Regulator for Social Housing (both prompted by our ITV News investigation) found disrespect for tenants at the heart of the problem of poor and dangerous housing.
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