Help! My Home is Disgusting is now available to watch on E4. Presented by social housing activist, Kwajo Tweneboa, he exposes the shocking conditions in private rentals and social housing, the toll they take on tenants’ mental health and reveals a complaints process that is not working.
Kwajo’s journey into activism began after he watched his father, who suddenly became terminally ill with cancer, die. All the while, cockroaches, mice and flies infested their dilapidated housing association flat on the Eastfields estate in Mitcham, south London.
Tweneboa, a 23-year-old student, shared the flat with his two sisters, 24 and 21. He says he asked the housing association, Clarion, to make repairs for more than a year, with little success, before deciding to take further action.
Now, he champions all those living in terrible conditions. He’s trying to help social housing tenants get better living conditions by sharing their stories online and helping them to contact politicians.
Kwajo says hundreds of people from around the UK have contacted him for assistance. “I’m willing to take on absolutely everyone and anyone to ensure this issue is spoken about,” he says. “It’s been going on for way too long.”
Landlords ignoring their tenants’ requests is an all-too-common practice. Last year, the Housing Ombudsman’s report on damp and mould in socially rented properties found evidence of ‘maladministration’ among 56% of the 142 landlords they investigated over a two-year period, rising to 64% for complaint-handling alone. The report said: “This failure rate was often the result of inaction, excessive delays or poor communication.”
The roots of Britain’s housing crisis can be traced to Margaret Thatcher’s government and the 1980 Housing Act, which gave council tenants the right to buy their council homes. Councils enticed tenants with the offer of 100% mortgages and generous discounts on the value of their property. Wealthier tenants were often able to transform their homes before selling them or becoming landlords themselves, but this resulted in a drop in the numbers of properties available for those who still required social housing.
Today, getting social housing – and having it repaired – can feel like a lottery. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) had its budget cut in half in 2010, while austerity has the housing departments of councils short-staffed and unable to respond to complaints.
You can watch ‘Help! My Home is Disgusting’ here.