CROYDON COMMENTARY: Ahead of a protest on Monday night, EMMA GARDINER, pictured right, calls on Town Hall leaders to abandon their proposed council rent hike until all their properties meet the habitable homes standard
A long-awaited independent survey recently published (very quietly) by Croydon Council found that at least one of their residential tower blocks across the borough is not fit for human habitation, under the 2018 Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act. Surprise! The block of flats is at Regina Road.
Since the scandal of the terrible conditions in flats at Regina Road hit a year ago, when the people of Croydon were able to see up close the horrors of social housing in their borough, the council has moved a number of families and individuals living in the worst conditions out of the block forever.
Axis, the council’s “repairs” contractor, will no longer be delivering its services to the council’s housing department from 2022, and a number of council officials have left and some councillors deselected, arguably as a result of the scandal.
In terms of any strategic changes to the housing department though, none have materialised, apart from the creation of yet another senior management job, this time imaginatively named “director of tenancy services”. Presumably, they will be put in place to oversee the implementation of the council’s “improvement plan” that the independent Housing Improvement Board doesn’t think is worth the paper it’s written on.
Les Parry, who sits on the board, is not one to mince his words. “In the past year, tenants have not received any improvement in housing services, the council and councillors have failed to put people first for their housing needs and have excluded them from all decisions.
“Shame on management and shame on lead politicians.”
The Board found that the council had inexplicably bypassed normal procedures for consulting tenants on rent increases, and they plan to report back to the council on this and their other findings at the cabinet meeting on Monday.
Strangely enough, Les and his fellow board members were missed off the invite list to a scrutiny session on the housing improvement plan that took place this week.
For the last year, tenants at Regina Road have been working relentlessly to keep the council to their commitments. Were it not for the efforts of a group of tireless residents, it’s hard to believe that those in power, if left to their own devices, would have done anything.
In a valiant attempt to bring about real improvements to Croydon Council’s housing service, for council tenants across the whole borough, the Housing Improvement Board has put together a tenant’s charter that will require the council to treat all residents with respect, listen to what they have to say, facilitate an effective complaints procedure and be transparent with performance data.
Basically, exactly what they should have been doing all along.
But the latest slap in the face for Croydon’s long-suffering council tenants came with the announcement that Croydon is to increase its rents by 4.1per cent from next month, right in the middle of a cost of living crisis and only a year on from housing charity Shelter’s CEO describing what she saw at Regina Road as the worst housing conditions she had ever seen.
It seems like the council has underestimated Croydon’s collective memory span.
Mayoral candidates standing for election on May 5 would be wise to listen to the reasonable demands of their residents, and not be naïve enough to think that 12 months would be long enough for voters to forget the images of wall-to-wall black mould, water pouring from ceilings and light fittings, sodden carpets, and with small children made sick by their own homes.
Hopefully, the housing demo this coming Monday before the cabinet meeting at the Town Hall might make them all think twice. With the suggestion that the meeting is being moved online, perhaps they are already feeling the heat.
Croydon Council must freeze the callous and unnecessary 4.1per cent rent increase, the highest seen in the borough in a decade and catastrophically coinciding with a brutal cost of living crisis that will hit residents hard.
With Croydon’s Housing Revenue Account starting the year off with £27.6million in reserves, our struggling families need the cash more than the council does.
Read more: Investigation finds systemic failure and incompetence in council
Read more: ‘None of the tenants in Croydon trust anybody in the council’
Read more: Residents’ group pledges to keep up the fight for decent homes
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
- Emma Gardiner is a member of the Regina Road Residents’ Support Group and works with the South Norwood Community Kitchen
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