Birmingham families hit out over living in condemned Druids Heath social housing block

ITV News Central journalist Barnaby Papadopulos went to meet some of the people who say their community is under threat

A mum has told ITV News Central the building that she is living in is in disrepair and she fears it's "killing her family".

Paulina went on to say that the cold was effecting her mental health and that in the winter, she and her son live in the living room, as she can not afford to heat the flat.

Druids Heath is one of the most income deprived areas in the West Midlands.

The post-war tower blocks which dominate its skyline are starting to crumble. Doors and windows are poorly fitted, resulting in freezing draughts. There are issues with damp, with mould, and with wood rot.

"You become desensitised to it, you become numb to it," said Liv, speaking in the sparse flat she shares with her young son.

"There's not much to be proud of, tower blocks," she says.

Birmingham City Council wants to knock many of these buildings down as part of plans to regenerate the area. They are refusing to make non-essential repairs, residents claim, to condemned blocks.

Almost all people who live in Druids Heath rent their homes from the council, and are being rehoused over a period of months.

For people temporarily renting from the council, it's different. They get less support in finding alternative accommodation. One woman, who didn't want to be named, said she's been on a waiting list for a council property for months. With the demolition of her building - slated for March 2023 - drawing closer, she's starting to worry.

"There's a massive possibility we will have to go back to hostels, or hotels," she said. She's a self-described 'plant mum'. Her shelves are adorned with a number of house plants - each one representing the hard work it has taken for her to buy them, and water them. The idea of returning to homelessness - of having to start all over again - is devastating.

"It's like a double anxiety," she said. "I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. And it's not a nice feeling."

"Lets just leave it at that.'

'The building is killing us'

For other residents, problems are more immediate.

Last winter, explained Paulina, she and her son slept in the living room of her two bedroom flat.

"I can not afford to heat the flat," she said, saying she is often charged around sixty-five pounds a week for electricity. "This building is killing us," she added.

Last week regulator Ofgem announced an uplift to the energy price cap - meaning bills could rise to £3549 for an average household. In January, they could rise even further.

Along with mounting inflation pushing up the costs of everyday essentials, people like Paulina could find themselves in a seriously difficult position by the Winter.

But despite the material issues in the buildings - and there are many - the sense of community is incredibly strong. People are as concerned about the possible destruction of that as they are about the urgent repairs needed to their homes.

"They just want answers," said local business owner Kathleen Coogan, whose cafe is under threat if the regeneration goes ahead.

With people being rehoused all over the city, there are fears that community spirit could disappear - and now people are urging the council to build new homes in Druids Heath for existing residents before knocking down the tower blocks.

The authority had more complaints than every other council in England. Credit: PA Images

ITV News Central asked Birmingham City Council repeatedly for an interview. Instead they responded with a statement.

"Hillcroft House is due for demolition as part of plans for hundreds of new affordable homes and improved community facilities. Improvement works and upgrades such as new kitchens, bathrooms and windows are not undertaken on any properties which are planned for disposal or demolition. 

"However, responsive and essential repair works as well as block cleaning are being carried out as they would be for any other council property across the city. Residents having to move are receiving one to one support and can claim for a disturbance payment for other reasonable financial losses they have occurred.

"Concerns raised by residents are listened to and acted upon where they can be resolved and those with specific needs receive additional support. Residents that do not have secure tenancies do not get the same level of assistance but housing officers still provide them with ongoing support including working with them to find alternative accommodation according to the councils allocation policy."