Improvements To Thurrock's Council Housing

In a debate on housing in June 2014 Jackie highlighted the poor standard of some council housing in Thurrock and the ongoing failure by Thurrock Council to tackle the worst properties on its books.

Jackie said, "The quality of one’s living accommodation can be good or bad for one’s health. We have talked about some properties being poorly maintained, but poorly maintained rented properties are not the preserve of the private rented sector. In my constituency, the worst properties are those owned by the council.

“A row of four terraced houses in Tilbury is subsiding. One of the tenants has been on the waiting list to be rehoused for nine years. The council is still putting people in those properties. There is a flat from which someone was rehoused because it was riddled with damp, only for a new tenant to come to me two months later about the same property because it had not been treated. The post-1940 housing stock in my constituency has poorly installed central heating and double glazing units, which have led to real problems of decay. Yes, the previous Government did introduce a decent housing initiative, but it is useless if councils do not take advantage of it. I am doing my best to tell the council what its obligations are to its tenants.

The real point is that some tenants suffer seriously life-threatening illnesses. Where properties are infected with damp and mould, which happens in poorly ventilated properties with cheap double-glazing, we see a rise in illnesses such as asthma. I also want to mention an illness that many hon. Members may not have heard of, aspergillus. Where tenants inhale mould in infected properties, the mould can start to invade their lungs. That condition can be terminal, and I am sorry to advise the House that in my constituency I have a number of cases of people with aspergillus, contracted from the houses in which they live. One lady who suffered from respiratory failure was not allowed home by hospital staff because they recognised that it was her living environment that was killing her—and, yes, that was a council house. We must all be vigilant and remind councils of their obligations in this regard.

Responding, the Minister Stephen Williams said that the improvements witnessed in the private sector rental market contrasted with the performance of the public sector. He said, “Overall, the quality of accommodation in the sector, which has been mentioned several times today, has improved. It is more energy-efficient, and there are fewer non-decent homes than in the past. The satisfaction levels reported by tenants themselves are high: 83% of tenants are satisfied, according to the most recent surveys. That is a higher percentage than reported following similar surveys of the public sector. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price): I too find, as a constituency MP, that many constituents come to me—sadly—with problems relating to the public sector.”