Almost 200 people from a Derry housing estate have signed a petition demanding that action is taken to address the “very distressing situations” they say they are experiencing.
Residents at Cornshell Fields have now submitted the petition, which has been signed by 188 people, to Derry City & Strabane District Council and Apex Housing while demanding action over alleged widespread dampness and mould which, the residents say, they have been living with for many years.
People Before Profit and Derry Housing Action Committee representatives have been assisting the residents and DHAC representative, Willie White, said that the results of a new survey conducted within the estate - erected around 16 years ago - found that 86 per cent of those asked said they had experienced damp problems, and of those, 65 per cent have had issues ongoing for more than 10 years.
Apex Housing said they have always addressed any issues raised by residents within the estate, while the Council have said they will investigate the claims of the residents over the coming days.
Residents have claimed that there are issues with a lack of insulation, ventilation, condensation and dampness with mould growing on walls, clothes, toys, furnishings and in one case, even a holy statue.
They claimed the conditions were impacting on health and well-being as well as resulting in residents being left out of pocket as they have to pay for heating, redecorating and replace items ruined by dampness and mould.
They claimed that some people have been asked to take doors off wardrobes and put up curtains to stop the damp, while others said residents had been told not to put items in their loft. One woman said a number of residents have been given machines aimed at drying out their homes but that these have not solved the issue, while another reported that a thermal board had been erected over a wallpapered wall riddled with mould after she requested the problem be dealt with.
One woman who has lived on the estate for eight years, said: “Everybody knows that mould is airborne. If you leave anything long enough in the living room it is damp. I can’t buy cloth dog beds anymore because you leave it down and it is soaking. The porch is damp. I told them, ‘this is not the first house I have lived in and I know this is not normal.’ We have also spoken to residents whose wallpaper has fallen off the wall twice due to the dampness.
“A lot of people felt ashamed and thought it was something they were doing. They didn’t know it was basically a unanimous thing throughout the estate.”
Her relative, who also lives on the estate, said she had to buy a gas heater last year to help heat her home but said she had to use it so often the gas was running out in no time. She added: “My husband went up the other night to get a teddy out of the loft for my daughter’s wee boy and the toy was wet.”
Another resident said that when she brought Christmas decorations down from the attic, there was water running off the bags.
A man said he has had to move away from the estate and leave himself homeless due to concerns over the potential effects of mould and dampness on his health after twice battling cancer and being diagnosed with another serious health condition.
“There are obviously other people with health issues too and they are being forced to live in these conditions,” he said, claiming: “The main problem is the tenants are getting the blame for the way the houses are when it’s not their fault and Apex is letting it all happen.”
Another resident said she was told the mould in her house was there because she had wallpapered her walls.
“I first noticed the mould on my walls after the bad winter in 2010 and it has been ongoing since then.
“The mould has destroyed clothes, it has destroyed furniture, I actually ripped my lino up in the bathroom and the floor was pure black underneath and they have had to replace floors, ceilings. There is water getting into the houses.”
One woman who has lived in the house since it was built, agreed, adding: “We have had dampness in all bedrooms. They put roof tiles in for ventilation.
“We have had water leaking through the roof. The housing officer has been out and treated one of the bedrooms but still the damp is coming through the treatment that was applied.
“You try to heat these houses with oil going, you could have it going for five, six, seven hours. As soon as you turn it off within 10 to 15 minutes the house is ice cold.”
The Housing Association responsible for Cornshell Fields has claimed that issues raised by tenants have always been addressed during the 16 years since the estate was erected.
The ‘Journal’ put the concerns raised by the residents to Apex Housing this week.
A spokesperson for Apex responded yesterday: “Apex has always endeavoured to provide an excellent maintenance service to all its tenants over the years regardless of location.
“Since Cornshell Fields was first occupied some 16 years ago, all issues raised by tenants living there have been addressed through our normal maintenance procedures.
“Each issue has been individually assessed and remedial measures are taken to suit each particular circumstance, as is the case in all our housing estates.”
The spokeswoman added: “We are aware that the Derry Housing Action Committee has made representation to the Council’s Environmental Health Department and we will be happy to liaise with them on any matters which they wish to raise with us.
“In the meantime, we will continue to respond to all maintenance requests coming directly from tenants through our normal procedures.”
Speaking earlier this week at Cornshell Fields, Willie White from People Before Profit Derry Housing Action Campaign, said numerous respondents to a survey conducted in the area had claimed they had been told following works at their homes that there were serious insulation issues.
“How do you justify paying subcontractors to patch up this stuff when we know and they know there are serious structural problems here?” Mr. White asked.
On the petition submitted to Apex, residents said a survey was conducted “due to the many problems experienced by tenants over the years.”
Derry City & Strabane District Council confirmed yesterday that the claims made by residents will be investigated.
A spokesperson for the council confirmed that it had received “a petition from residents expressing their concern about issues in their homes in the Cornshell Fields area.”
The spokesperson added: “Those concerns will be investigated in the coming days and followed up with Apex Housing with a view to satisfactorily resolving the issues.”
The ‘Journal’ had asked if the council if its staff was aware of similar issues being raised by residents in other estates in Derry.
The spokesperson responded: “Council is not aware of similar issues in other estates in the city.”
The residents who have spoken out have claimed their homes are affected by serious problems such as dampness, condensation, mould, draughty interiors and many other problems and have called for immediate action.