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Remedial work begins on 'poor quality' council homes with mould issues in south Dublin

Two years ago a European committee upheld a complaint, stating the Irish government failed to ensure the right to social housing of an adequate standard.

REMEDIAL WORK HAS begun on council homes in the Balgaddy area of south Dublin more than two years after a European committee upheld a complaint against Ireland about the country’s social housing standards.

The collective complaint by 20 communities, including residents of the Balgaddy homes, was made in May 2015.

Two years ago The European Committee for Social Rights in Strasbourg upheld the complaint, stating the Irish government had failed to take “sufficient and timely measure to ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for a not insignificant number of families living in local authority housing”.

South Dublin County Council committed in April this year to an “accelerated planned maintenance programme” to provide window and door replacements, painting of exterior windows, doors and communal areas; and various safety works (including installation or replacement of smoke or heat monitors, carbon monoxide monitors and window restrictors) across its housing stock.

Back in 2015, after the initial complaint was made, TheJournal.ie visited some of the residents of the development. Families described issues with damp and mould, leaks, poor ventilation and structural problems.

One woman whose son had severe asthma and Kawasaki’s disease, an autoimmune disease, showed us a letter his doctor wrote for her to give to the council.

In it he said he was “in no doubt” that the mould in the boy’s bedroom was contributing to his asthma and said he strongly supported the mother’s application for a change of accommodation.

mould Mould behind the wardrobe in the bedroom of a boy who suffers from asthma. Source: Provided by family

Another woman spoke of her horror when she noticed a dip in her staircase and discovered the planks underneath the carpet had started to rot.

“I’m terrified. I’m panicked about it, I can’t sleep at night worrying about it. I feel very unsafe in my own home,” she said at the time.

As far back as 2011, South Dublin County Council was involved in a dispute with the builders, demanding money to cover costs of resolving the many issues in the estates.

The council has now said said it will provide funding for specific works in Balgaddy to address heating, ventilation and insulation issues and roof and guttering works.

“A commitment has also been made that any exceptional maintenance issues will be examined on a case-by-case basis where tenants may be transferred while necessary upgrade works are prioritised and this process has commenced,” the council said in a statement.

Need for regeneration

Aiden Lloyd, chair of the Rights Platform in South Dublin told TheJournal.ie that some remedial works have recently begun in Balgaddy.

“They are addressing the problems with mould and leaks, and with crumbling plasterwork, things like that. They have said where it’s necessary they’ll move people out for a time, if significant reconstruction has to take place.”

He said the local residents have welcomed the fact that the council has committed to some infrastructure in the area, including the construction of a new play area, communal open spaces and additional CCTV and street lighting.

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balgaddy An open space beside a children's play area in Balgaddy. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

“The need is obviously for regeneration rather than refurbishment,” he said. “The quality of housing is poor, the layout and design facilitates anti-social behaviour and the proliferation of drugs activity.”

‘Insufficient or inadequate ventilation’

In a survey by the Community Action Network last year across 13 local authority housing estates, 76% of respondents reported mould growth in their homes and 70% said their homes were cold and hard to heat. Over one in five said a doctor had told them their health was adversely affected by their housing conditions.

Cecilia Forrestal, human rights co-ordinator with CAN said the attitude of local authorities in relation to damp and mould damage in tenant’s homes is “unreasonable” as the general policy is that this is the responsibility of the tenant.

Building design and property management and standards should be of a standard that allows occupants to enjoy a modern standard of living. However, to claim that local authority tenants are responsible for condensation is to ignore the obligations on local authorities as landlord. Clearly, there are insufficient or inadequate ventilation systems in these home.

Forrestal said the original collective complaint submitted four years ago, included direct evidence from tenants in the 20 council estates, but also evidence from architects and engineers that “indicated appalling living conditions”.

Back in 2015, one tenant of a Balgaddy house told TheJournal.ie she got the impression the council believed “people here don’t know how to live in houses”.

I was told the damp on my kitchen ceiling was because I was cooking there – in a kitchen!

She eventually managed to convince the council to install an extractor fan over her cooker.

While the council in this case has now committed to addressing the issues, Forrestal said the government “continues to have a blind-spot and remains completely silent” on the housing needs and rights of local authority tenants.

“While the silence of convenience continues, many local authority tenants are living in appalling housing conditions, enduring damp, mould, sewerage, pest infestation, cold and overcrowding. For too many, their housing is making them sick.”

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