‘This house isn’t safe for my son’: Mum’s fears over condition of her social house

Jennifer Owen, 28, has been battling for nearly six months for improvements to be made in her home. Credit: S4C

A mother from Gwynedd says she’s worried about her son’s health after battling for nearly six months for improvements to be made in her home.

Speaking to S4C’s current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar, Jennifer Owen, 28, who lives in a social house in Talysarn says she first discovered the problems in her house when she started redecorating at the beginning of this year. 

“I decided I wanted to make my house a home, so I started stripping the wallpaper," she said.

"I started in the dining room to find the plaster just came off the wall, then I moved to the living room to find the same thing."

But having stripped the wallpaper, Jenn says the walls were crumbling and dusty. 

“For my little boy, it’s not safe. He has to breathe this in, and it’s not fair on him having to live in a mess like this. He’s definitely coughing a lot more often since this began. 

The dust isn’t the only problem Jenn says she’s faced. 

“When I was redecorating the bedroom with a steamer, I was leaning on this wall, and it gave way.

"I had a choice - I had a hot steamer behind me, so I could fall back on that or fall down the stairs and break my neck.

"I chose the steamer, and I’ve been left with a scar on my back where I fell on it. 

Jenn injured herself when a wall in her home gave way, she says. Credit: YBAB

Jennifer, who works in a nearby recycling centre, says she’s been trying to get Adra, the housing association which owns her house, to sort the problems for nearly six months. 

She pays more than £400 in rent each month. 

She said: "They treat you as if you’re someone who doesn’t work, who sits around the house all day. They create job cards on days where I’m working, and I have to take time off.

"Then I take time off and sometimes they don’t turn up - you don’t even get a phone call to say they aren’t coming. You feel as if you’re going round in circles. 

"I’ve really struggled with my mental health because of this. I knocked on the lady next door’s house crying that day [the wall gave way].

"This isn’t a home, it’s a building site, and it’s unbearable.”

Jenn says her home is "unbearable" and like a "building site". Credit: S4C

In February, Jenn started a Facebook group called ‘Adra Tai - Horror Stories’ which now has over 200 members.

Y Byd ar Bedwar has also received evidence from more than 20 Adra tenants who have complained about the state of their houses.

Their concerns include fears that their houses aren’t safe for their children because of damp and mould, pipes leaking for months before being fixed, and one tenant claimed they went two months without warm water in their house.

Adra is responsible for more than 6,000 homes across North Wales including Gwynedd, Wrexham and Conwy. 

In response, Iwan Trefor Jones, Deputy Chief Executive at Adra said: "It’s disappointing to hear stories like these and we have to apologise if cases like these have arisen. Work has now been done in this home, replastering work.

"This company’s performance is among the best in Wales, but as with every housing association, there are cases of concern, and the commitment we can give is that we’re going to work closely with tenants to resolve their situations."

In response to the Facebook group and the other evidence obtained, he added: "We are disappointed that there is a Facebook group noting their concerns about the company.

"We have a system in place whereby tenants can contact us, we have call centres, we have a tenants partnership, we’ve also got a tenant on our board, one of the few through Wales that do this.”

'Housing crisis affects 1 in 3'

Heddyr Gregory from housing charity Shelter Cymru says it’s vital the right kind of social homes are provided, but also wants to draw attention to the lack of social housing available in Wales. Currently there are over 70,000 households on the waiting list. 

“There’s a housing crisis across the UK, and especially in Wales. According to a survey we did last year, 1 in 3 people in Wales were affected by the housing crisis, and are affected by the housing crisis. The simple answer is that more affordable housing is needed.

"We welcome this government's commitment to build 20,000 more social houses, before the end of this Senedd term, but there’s also a problem with this  - 70,000 on the waiting list and 20,000 houses - it's not going to solve the problem overnight."

Y Byd ar Bedwar sent Freedom of Information requests to each of the 22 local authorities in Wales for a breakdown of waiting times for social housing.

Of the 17 authorities that replied, 16 have seen an increase in demand for social housing in the past four years - with Carmarthen being the exception. 

In Merthyr Tydfil, the waiting list has more than tripled since 2018 - with more than 3,000 waiting to be housed.

Jenn says she has fought for nearly six months to make her house a home and now almost all of the work has been completed, but she still feels let down. 

“They’re quick enough to build new (social) housing which looks lovely with new windows. They look after their new stock but not the old.” 

According to Adra, in the next three years they will invest £60m on their current housing, and will build nine hundred low carbon homes to help meet the need for affordable homes of a high standard for local people. 

The Welsh Government told us that social housing is one of their top priorities. As well as building 20,000 new affordable homes, they say they are working closely with their social housing partners to provide quality housing they can be proud of.

  • Y Byd ar Bedwar airs on Monday July 4 at 8pm, with English subtitles available

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...