Leaks force residents to flee temporary housing block

Vulnerable people placed in temporary accommodation by Enfield Council fear for their safety, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Greenway House, Harlow (credit Google)
Greenway House, Harlow (credit Google)

Homeless people placed in a temporary housing block by Enfield Council have been hit by repeated flooding, leaving them in “unlivable” conditions.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he and dozens of other people from Enfield placed in temporary accommodation at Greenway House in Harlow, Essex, had been suffering from leaks and flooding for more than two years.

But he claimed the building was not being fixed because the council and the company that manages the block, Grange Homes, were “passing the buck” and each saying the other should foot the bill for the repairs.

Extreme weather at the end of July led the man to flee the building and stay in a hotel, fearing the flooding had put him at risk of being electrocuted.

The resident said: “A lot of flats here are flooded, and people have been left homeless. My flat is completely flooded and unsafe. It is unlivable. The electrics have been affected.

“I’ve been left to book hotels, but I’m afraid I’ll run out of money soon and have nowhere to sleep. A lot of other tenants in this building have also been left without anywhere to sleep, or have had to sleep in the damp and rain that comes through the roof.

“There are 83 flats, and over 60% of the flats are leaking. I’ve got damp or mould, and we are expected to live in these conditions pretty much forever. The council are outright refusing to fix the building, and most of us have been left in unlivable and unsafe conditions.”

People on Enfield’s housing waiting list were moved to the building – a former office block in Harlow Business Park that was converted into flats – in 2018. At the time, it appeared brand new, the resident said.

But at the end of the year, the leaks began. The man described water pouring through the building’s smoke vent “like a waterfall” and running down the stairs to properties on the ground floor.

He claimed the leak had never been fixed, and more leaks later developed in other parts of the building. When the resident complained about the problems in his flat, he said he was moved to another flat, which was also affected by leaks. He was moved again, only to experience similar problems.

The man said he was still living in a hotel more than a week after fleeing his flat, and the situation was affecting his health. He said: “I’ve been in constant contact with the council, and I’m just being passed from department to department and have not been housed even for emergencies.

“I’ve been left to book hotels, but I’m afraid I will run out of money soon and have nowhere to sleep.”

In September 2019, Enfield Council pledged to start phasing out the use of temporary accommodation outside the borough. It said tenants in a separate block in Harlow, Redstone House, would be moved to “more suitable accommodation” over the following six months, and a review of the council’s use of other accommodation in the town would follow.

A video of the leaks affecting Greenway House, Harlow

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Greenway House was purchased by [council-owned company] Housing Gateway in 2018 and is used by Enfield Council to house families who are at threat of homelessness.  

“Greenway House was fully refurbished to a high standard prior to purchase but has been experiencing issues with its roof, which have worsened over the last month due to the torrential rain experienced over the summer. Where tenants have reported severe water ingress, action has been taken to move them to alternative accommodation either within Greenway House or elsewhere.

 “The roof at the property has been repaired when leaks have been identified, but an overhaul of the roof has now been commissioned. Housing Gateway has appointed the professional team that will lead the project, and work is expected to commence on 16th August. The programme of works is anticipated to take nine months to complete.

“We are aware of the resident’s situation and are urgently trying to find a solution to meet his specific needs. 

“Since October 2019, we have changed our approach to emergency accommodation. We have ended our large-scale use of privately-owned blocks in other boroughs and aim to place residents needing emergency accommodation within Enfield wherever possible.”

Grange Homes was approached for comment.