A housing association that took over thousands of council houses from East Cambridgeshire District Council in 1993, has failed us, says a group of angry tenants. Sanctuary Housing tenants in Mepal – a small village between Chatteris is and Ely – have come together to campaign to bring their homes up to standard.
Some have opened their homes to CambsNews to evidence the repairs they claim are long overdue.
A spokesperson for the group told CambsNews: “These issues have been going on for years. Nobody listens to us. Nobody cares.
“Sanctuary Homes is one of the biggest landl
ords in the country with almost 120,000 homes under its management. Their most recent financial report says they have a surplus of 20% and have nearly £2billion of cash and other capacity available.
“Sanctuary say they believe that: everyone deserves a good, safe home and a community they can belong to.”
The spokesperson added: “This is not happening for us. Far from it.”
On their website Sanctuary says: “Social housing is at the core of what we do, and we believe secure, good quality accommodation can be the foundation that enables people to achieve their goals in life.”
But Mepal tenants say they are being failed by Sanctuary.
“Our homes all have major issues that require urgent attention and repair. Yet, we have to chase for any repair and chase again. It’s left us in complete despair,” one tenant said.
“My house is so cold and damp that my whole family is ill. The walls have black mould and the wallpaper is falling off. We are planning to stay with friends or relatives sleeping on sofas because we can’t face another winter living like this.
“I’ve tried complaining and complaining but no-one does anything. I am at my wits end.”
“This is not an isolated case of one house in an unfit state. Other tenants have similar cases of damp, mould, and deterioration. And of ancient storage heaters that are expensive to run or have stopped working.
Another tenant said: “My house is dangerous. The bannisters have fallen off and the light over the stairs won’t work. I’m terrified that one of us will fall down and be seriously injured.
“The kitchen is so old that all the doors have come off, but Sanctuary won’t do anything about those as they say they are not a risk to life.”
A third tenant said: “The house is in a bad way. I have daylight coming through the walls at the back. No wonder the place is so difficult to heat and so cold.”
And a fourth tenant added: “My house has rising damp which was confirmed by Sanctuary. Yet, they’ve left me living here. I’m paying rent for a home yet I’m in a property that requires major renovations. No-one should be forced to live here.”
But these problems are not confined to Mepal, in Littleport a tenant in a sheltered bungalow, told CambsNews: “Two and a half years ago, electricians came to rewire so that new heaters could be installed.
“They looked at my water tank and told me not to use it because of the risk of Legionnaires Disease. It was tested but I heard no more. So, I’ve had no running hot water for two and a half years.
“What’s more, I’ve been told that Sanctuary Housing says it has no money for major repairs and that’s why some of the properties near me are empty and are likely to remain so. It’s not much of a community spirit with gaps in the street.”
The tenants spokesperson said: “We have reported the issues time and again, we don’t see Sanctuary being pro-active about this.”
One tenant described her experience of chasing repairs.
“The repairs service is a joke,” she said. “I ring up and get a recorded voice saying that I am in a long queue of 20 or 30 others. Eventually I get told to leave a message which I do.
“But no-one calls back. Instead, they send a text saying to call again. And round and round the same process again. Meanwhile, my house is still broken.”
The residents say that they’ve reported the same issues multiple times. They say they have complained to their councillors and MP Steve Barclay and claim “nothing has been done”.
The tenants spokesperson added: “All we want is what anyone wants, a home where we feel safe and secure and can be together as families. It’s a basic human right, but we don’t have that.”
East Cambridgeshire District Council transferred its housing stock and the housing register to Hereward Housing (now known as Sanctuary Housing) in 1993.
Sanctuary Housing and the Housing Partnership Registered Social Landlords have a stock of approximately 4610 properties in the district.
CambsNews has approached Sanctuary for a response.
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