Problems at Greenway House continue as residents moved

The Enfield Council-owned temporary housing block in Harlow has become notorious for multiple long-running issues, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

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

People living in a temporary accommodation block hit by repeated flooding have slammed Enfield Council over its “unfair” plans to rehouse them.

Residents of Greenway House, a former office block on a business park in Harlow, Essex, have been left dismayed after being offered rooms in hotels and faraway towns while the council carries out renovation work on the block.

The building, which was converted into temporary accommodation to house homeless residents in 2018, has been affected by flooding that left some flats plagued by damp and mould. Earlier this year, the council told some people they would have to move out of the building while it carries out renovation work, causing further disruption for families.

Despite pledging three years ago to start phasing out the use of temporary accommodation outside the borough, Enfield Council now says it plans to continue using Greenway House as temporary accommodation after the renovation work is complete.

Miriam Piotrowicz, who has two daughters aged four and five, has lived in Greenway House for more than four years. She said the council planned to house her in a hotel – initially one outside Harlow – where she feared she would have to stay for up to six months. If she refused, she said the council told her it would end its “duty” to her and she would be made homeless.

Mould in a flat at Greenway House (credit Miriam Piotrowicz)
Mould in a flat at Greenway House (credit Miriam Piotrowicz)

Miriam said this meant she would have no kitchen, no meals provided, no washing machine and no help paying for her children’s food. Other residents had been made similar offers, she added.

The mother-of-two said: “My kid was accepted to her first pre-school, and I do not see why she has to move out of that because of a move away from Harlow. I need a washing machine. How can they expect my kids to eat takeaways and for me to afford that?

“I don’t know what to do […] I’m not asking for anything more than I am entitled to – a normal, safe property to live in. It is terrible how they are treating us. It is their duty to look after this building, and because they have not, now we are suffering.”

Miriam said she had been told the work was being carried out on Greenway House because of the mould and damp problems, and because the building was “unsafe” because of a lack of fire exits on the first and second floors.

She said she had struggled with damp and mould for three years and once went without hot water for eight months. Despite reporting the mould “many times” she said the council “did nothing about it” for years. After water poured in through a leaking roof, she had to be evacuated to a hotel and had to buy replacements for belongings that had been damaged by the flood.

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Although Miriam was moved to a new flat in March, she said it also had mould. The experience had left her “mentally drained”, she added, and at one point she was hospitalised after an anxiety attack. Her daughter suffers breathing difficulties, which she says were caused by the damp and mould.

“It is so inhumane,” Miriam said. “I’ve worked my whole life. I’ve been an honest person. I stopped working due to having two kids […] As soon as I can, I will get a job. We’re not animals, we’re humans.”

Ellif Sagir, another resident of Greenway House, has a four-year-old daughter and is seven months pregnant. She said the council offered her two studio flats, which would be too small for her family, before finding her a one-bedroom place in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Ellif said: “As far as I’m concerned, Enfield Council should not send us out of the borough anyway. I said: ‘I’m sure I’m not going to accept that’. The offer was ridiculous – it was so far out of the borough. My child has a secure place [at a primary school] and the only useful place to move to is Harlow.”

Moving to Hitchin would also mean changing hospitals, Ellif added, which she feared would affect her health as she has appointments booked at her current hospital. She also does not drive, and it would be too far away from her family.

“They [the council] dismissed it and said ‘not good enough’,” Ellif said. “What they offered me as a one-bedroom was a basement [flat] and too far away for me to start again with a kid there. I refused, and they said they had ended their duty to me, and ‘you are making yourself homeless’.”

Ellif said she could not move into private-sector accommodation because her benefits are capped. She added: “Every single day I am expecting someone to turn up at my door and physically take me out […] At the moment, my life is on hold. I don’t know what is going on.”

Ellif said she felt the council had “threatened” her with social services when she refused to move. She said the council told her that social services would care about where her child was going and the fact that she was facing homelessness. “I said: ‘I am not – you are forcing me to become homeless because of something you can easily resolve. I am not leaving my property.”

Responding to the problems highlighted by Greenway House residents, a council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issues raised by the tenants and are working hard to make sure the transition from Greenway House is as smooth as possible for all involved.”

Greenway House contains 83 flats, and 43 of these are currently occupied. The council said it supports all households in temporary accommodation to move into their own accommodation and that it is currently in the process of moving seven households out of Greenway House to make improvements to the building.

The spokesperson added: “We are required to provide suitable temporary accommodation to some households experiencing homelessness. We sometimes have to place households into hotels, sometimes outside of Enfield, for short periods while we identify more suitable temporary accommodation.

“We always consider the needs of a household during a move and will provide meals where required.”

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