Plans to develop new affordable housing by Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) and Richmond Council have received backlash from current RHP residents.
Councillor Jim Millard, who is Lead Member for Housing and oversaw the Development Delivery Agreement (DDA), told SWL that it is making £5 million available to RHP to support the building of 180 homes over the next five years, as part of the council’s pipeline to build around 1,000 affordable homes over the next seven.
The council is planning to develop affordable homes across five sites; Bucklands Road and Elleray Hall in Teddington, Mereway Road near Twickenham Green, Edgar Road in Whitton and Meadows Hall on Richmond Hill.
RHP is working on three further sites in partnership with private developers; Informer House in Teddington, the Homebase site on Manor Road in Richmond and Richmond Royal, a former NHS Mental Health Hospital.
However, existing RHP residents have complained that the new developments could over-stretch an already struggling service.
Nafisa Haddad, a 32-year-old mother of three, lives in Feltham and has been a RHP resident since 2012.
She claims that issues with her property have either been ignored or not dealt with efficiently: “Unfortunately RHP have not taken care of their residents and I feel like as the years have gone by their service has gone from bad to worse.
“Whilst I appreciate their new home development means more housing available for those vulnerable, they have skipped the needs of their other residents.”
Haddad said she has had ongoing issues with her residence such as mould, a roof leak and heard concerns from three surveyors over the past few years about the property’s fittings and badly damaged flooring, but that no action was taken in response.
Haddad’s son is asthmatic and she said that all her children have been suffering from dry coughs due to the mould.
The residence is also too small for the family’s needs, with Haddad’s children forced to share bedrooms with one another and their mother.
“It’s just a cat and mouse chase with RHP at the moment, my concerns are not being taken seriously even though they’re aware that my son is asthmatic and that I have younger kids,” she said.
Due to a slipped disc in her back meaning she struggles to get up the stairs to her second-floor flat, Haddad says that RHP promised to move her to suitable temporary accommodation in February but says that this still has not happened and that her health is deteriorating.
She also says that the block she lives in was meant to be knocked down in 2017, with residents moved to new accommodation, but that RHP said a lack of funding put a stop to these plans – an allegation which RHP has not responded to.
Haddad says that her experiences are not isolated: “If you look at their reviews there’s others complaining just like me, I have my next door neighbour who’s having issues with them and is constantly fighting on the phone to them but nothing is being done.”
Commenting on RHP residents’ complaints and concerns about the association, Millard, who is a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hampton Wick and Richmond, said: “It’s not good enough and our residents deserve better, but I think it should be possible to do both.
“It’s not a case of just focusing on the existing housing, to the detriment of development, and this is part of why we’re putting the Council funding in to help support development so that we can make it possible.”
Millard, who was previously role Tenants’ Champion for the council, added: “I spoke to hundreds of households about issues; I have got a great understanding, I think, of what the priorities are for us moving forward as a council.”
When presented with Haddad’s concerns, the councillor said he was unable to comment on specific cases but urged her and other residents with complaints to get in touch with their ward councillor.
“Our role as councillors is very much to stand up for our residents and say to housing associations, if something is brought to our attention that is not good enough, to ask for that to be dealt with,” Millard said.
The councillor described the challenges that an area like Richmond, which contains a lot of protected green space, present planners and housing associations, and how this means that smaller-scale solutions are needed.
“That’s one of the fantastic things around RHP, it’s got that local touch and local focus and it knows what we need, and is prepared to work on these sites to be creative with us.
“Something I’m very excited about is that some of the first four-bedroom affordable housing is being built in a generation; bigger houses are really important because that’s how you get people out of overcrowding,” Millard said.
The DDA has provided RHP with around £330,000 for this development, which is currently underway on the Bucklands Road site near to existing RHP residences.
Emma Pratt, a RHP resident of five years who lives on the road, heavily criticised the association and its decision to develop there.
“They don’t care about their residents,” she said.
Her main complaint was about the lack of road safety and parking in the area, and that the development is making the situation worse, as the site is on what was previously the community’s car park.
“There will be more congestion coming in and out, already cars are having no choice but to park unsafely, on verges and on double yellows.
“A lot of the time they’re blocking this road for quite long periods of time because of the construction,” she said.
She also criticised the efficiency of the housing services provided by RHP: “It’s greed – they’ve got no problem putting the rent up.
“If they’re putting rent up then they must be making something and how therefore can you be neglecting us to the point you are?”
In response to Pratt’s concerns, a spokesperson for RHP said that their customers’ safety is their top priority and that they work closely with contractors to ensure it.
The spokesperson also said that they have kept residents updated about timescales and potential disruption from the works, and that a car park, which is currently under construction, will be available to all residents from the end of September.
In response to Haddad’s claims, RHP reiterated the importance of their customers’ safety and said that intelligent extractor fans to help combat mould will soon be installed in their properties and that advice will be given to residents on how to diagnose it.
With regards to the complaints made about long waits for repairs, RHP said: “Unfortunately, at the moment routine repairs and, in some very rare cases, a small number of pre-existing repair issues are taking longer than we’d usually expect.
“Like many other industries, since the UK left the European Union, we’ve found it challenging to obtain the materials and resources we need to carry out all repairs within our standard timeframes.
“Covid-19 has further exacerbated this problem, increasing demand and putting more pressure on the supply of materials,” the housing association said, before saying that they hope to return to their usual timeframes soon.
In response to the concerns more generally, they said: “Last year we invested £18.8 Million in maintaining and improving current homes.
“It’s extremely important to us that we continue to invest in existing homes, as well as providing new ones.”