Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Tenants collecting signatures on the letter at ASDA in Silverhill. Photo: Housing Rebellion

Southern Housing tenants demand respect

Southern Housing tenants are taking action to demand decent and affordable housing. Grace Lally reports.

‘Damp, mould, disrepair, high energy bills – Time to take action!’ This was the title of a public meeting in February organised by members of Housing Rebellion, Acorn, and a local environmental charity Energise Sussex Coast, for tenants of Southern Housing.

Tenants went on to launch a public petition asking the CEO of Southern Housing, Paul Hackett, to come and hear first-hand the experiences of tenants such as Victoria, whose grandson was hospitalised with breathing difficulties caused by mould in their home.

Mr Hackett has so far only agreed to a zoom call, where he assured everyone who attended that their cases would be followed up as a matter of urgency.

Three weeks later tenants asked local councillors to ask him why they hadn’t heard anything and one tenant, Andrea, who did then receive a phone call said that she didn’t see any sign that anything had really changed.

‘The woman who rang me hadn’t seen the zoom call, hadn’t read a transcript, hadn’t read the emails I sent with the details of all the problems we’ve had, so there was really no point to her call’.

Andrea’s mother suffers from COPD and has been sleeping in the living room for four years because of mould in her bedroom. Andrea, who also has chronic illness, described their home as ‘a living hell’.

Facebook group created

As the Housing Ombudsman reports a 92% maladministration rate for Southern Housing’s complaints-handling procedures, tenants have started a facebook group ‘Southern Housing Action Hastings’ to share pictures and testimonials of the problems they are facing in their homes, but also about the lack of respect that they experience.

Sandra, who is currently in temporary accommodation because of severe mould problems in her home, described the chaotic and upsetting treatment she’s had:

‘[On Friday] we were told by a woman from the Resettlement Team that they hadn’t been able to extend our booking at Combe Haven [a caravan park] and we needed to go to a hotel for the weekend, probably Travelodge, then go back to Combe Haven on Monday as the site was fully booked for the weekend. I was told all this by text while I was still at work so I had to dash back, throw all my stuff into bags then get everything out as the cleaners were waiting to get in… we were meant to be going back [to the caravan park] yesterday as work was supposed to start this week. It still hasn’t.’

The action group called a protest at the Southern Housing office on Friday 17 May to demand action for two other tenants who were at crisis point after being in unsuitable temporary accommodation for over two months also waiting for repairs to be carried out in their homes.

On the eve of the protest both tenants were offered a resolution by Southern Housing so the action didn’t go ahead, but other tenants vented their anger on the tenants’ WhatsApp chat about why it takes a protest to be treated in a humane way. They insisted there would be more protests for all of the other tenants who are also struggling to be heard.

A week in a hotel costs at least £500 per person – how much expense and how much unnecessary upheaval is being caused by Southern Housing’s failure to properly maintain their buildings, or do timely repairs when a problem is first reported?

On the day of the planned protest the CEO, Paul Hackett, finally offered one of the campaign organisers a face to face meeting to discuss the problems in Hastings.

But the group is adamant that it is a matter of principle and a sign of respect for his tenants that the CEO should first attend a meeting that is open to all tenants before meeting with tenant representatives.

Mr Hackett has refused… so stand by for further action!

How you can help
Follow this link to sign the open letter.
Join the Facebook group here.

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Posted 21:47 Sunday, May 26, 2024 In: Campaigns

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