ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports on the dire conditions families have to live in from Clarion Housing
The UK’s biggest housing association has admitted it has failed tenants after an ITV News investigation found widespread disrepair and squalid conditions across an entire housing estate of nearly 500 homes.
Clarion Housing issued an apology to all its residents of Eastfields Estate in Mitcham, south London, admitting that they “had not had the service they deserve.”
ITV News found shocking conditions on the estate and dozens of families living in damp, mouldy, crumbling homes with ongoing leaks.
The estate is plagued by a rodent infestation, with several residents showing us videos of mice and rats in their properties.
Watch the appalling conditions uncovered across the entire Eastfields housing estate
Clarion, which owns 125,000 homes across the UK and this year recorded a turnover of £943 million, have been accused by Eastfields' tenants of abandoning them and ignoring their complaints for years.
Housing Associations offer more affordable rented housing, predominantly to people on lower incomes.
Similar to council housing, housing associations charge generally cheaper rent than privately rented housing with longer tenancies.
Affordable housing for rent however is in short supply, and there are long waiting lists for housing association homes - it is common for people to wait several years to be given a permanent property.
Juliet Arthur and her husband work three jobs between them to pay Clarion £1,300 a month for a property they live in with their three children.
They have been forced to live for eight months without any lights on the top floor of their house, including in the family bathroom and their children’s bedroom.
The lights cut out in November last year after a leak in her living room caused the ceiling to collapse, inches from where her son was doing schoolwork. When we visited Juliet on June 1, there was still a huge hole in her ceiling, seven months after it caved in.
‘Imagine having your child sitting there… and the roof just drops’: Juliet Arthur says she worries for the safety of her family
On the other side of Eastfields, Juliet Amedline works two jobs to pay for a Clarion flat that is falling apart.
The kitchen ceiling is covered in black mould, and there are huge holes in the walls that she has been forced to cover herself with cardboard and gaffer tape to stop rodents coming in.
She has even bought a bag of cement herself and filled in holes in the walls after Clarion failed to fix them.
Janet says the sound of rats moving around in her walls prevents her from sleeping night.
Her bathroom is also rotting - the door and bath panels are broken, chunks of plaster have fallen from the walls and Janet is forced to wash with a bucket because the bath leaks into the property below.
‘You can’t sleep, the rats - they are making noise’: Janet Amedline shows ITV News the various holes in her walls
Maria and Christopher Horley are among Eastfields' longest serving tenants. Over nearly 30 years, they have watched the estate fall deeper into disrepair.
A leak in the corridor outside their front door is the latest in a long line of problems, but their biggest worry right now is in their hallway.
Christopher has leg braces that make it difficult for him to walk, and he keeps tripping up over the broken floor tiles in his specially-fitted footwear.
They told us they have little faith in Clarion to improve the estate while they wait to be moved.
‘Get her to live in these places and see how she likes it’: Residents react as they learn Clarion’s chief executive earns £350,000 per year
Clarion’s Director of Housing Vicky Bonner told ITV News she was “really sorry that any Clarion resident has been put in that position. I am so sorry that Clarion and residents have not had the service that they deserve.”
Clarion has promised to regenerate the estate and is committed to a £1 billion plan to demolish the current blocks and re-home the residents in brand-new properties.
Residents told ITV News Clarion was using the regeneration - which was first promised in 2015 and at the time of writing still has no start date - as an excuse to not fix their properties now.
Clarion admitted to us the estate had “come to the end of its life”, and that deciding how much money to spend on repairing it was about “getting the balance right.”
“Regeneration is a complex business and takes a long time,” said Vicky Bonner.
“Getting the balance right between how much you spend in the short and the long term on an estate that ultimately has come to the end of its life is difficult. I'm absolutely clear that we have not got the balance right on the Eastfields estate.
“I'd like to apologise on behalf of Clarion to all of those residents. We're determined to put that right and rebuild the trust and give residents confidence in us.”
Clarion told ITV News it could be another five years before residents are moved out of Eastfields, but have promised to “look into each and every individual issue and resolve it.”
Clarion's chief executive admits she has not visited the estate at all over the past year - but says she intends to knock on every door
Tenants though are fighting back.
22-year old Kwajo Tweneboa shares a house on the estate with his two younger sisters. Like residents across Eastfields, they have experienced damp, mould, leaks and an infestation of rodents.
Last January their father passed away after a two-year illness with cancer at the age of 58. Kwajo says his Dad was forced to live in appalling conditions and disrepair while receiving aggressive treatment, despite the family reporting the issues to Clarion.
After his father's death, Kwajo began speaking to other residents on the estate about the state of their properties.
"I was shocked, actually, to find out how long people have been messaging Clarion and how long they’ve known this has been going on for, yet still they haven’t done anything.
"These people depend on social housing (associations) like Clarion to look after them and ensure a duty of care and maintain their health and safety, yet they’ve been neglected."
‘I was shocked to find out how long people have been messaging Clarion’
Kwajo has posted more than 300 letters to tenants across Eastfields, asking them to share their stories to pressure Clarion into acting. He has also started a petition calling for the Chief Executive of Clarion to resign.
"I think people really need to fight at this point and continue fighting, not just for themselves but for the people that they work with, for their neighbours, for the community, for the people suffering.
"Whether you’re in social housing or not, it’s important to speak up and raise awareness about this because it will just continue to be brushed under the mat, like it has for decades."
A Clarion spokesperson said they could not comment on Kwajo's case due to legal proceedings.
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