Edinburgh mum says damp and mould make her too embarrassed to have visitors: now MSP calls mouldy homes summit
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The mould is in every room in the privately-rented two-bedroom flat in Forrester Park, visible on the walls, ceilings, carpet and furniture, including the bed of her one-year-old son who has a heart condition. "It’s obviously not good for him to be living with damp and mould,” she said. “He can't sleep in his bed any more, he has to come in with my partner and me. We've had the mould for about a year now. I'm embarrassed to invite any family or friends up to my house because it's so bad – even if a workman comes to fix something I hate inviting them in because it's so bad and it smells. You can smell the mould and damp as soon as you come in."
Ms McFarland contacted Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, hoping he might be able to help get something done. And he has had so many people getting in touch about their housing conditions that he is now calling a summit at the Scottish Parliament on the state of housing in Edinburgh. It will bring together MPs, MSPs and councillors from across the political spectrum, alongwith housing associations, campaigners and others. It is also hoped Housing Minister Paul McLennan will attend.
It comes after figures released under freedom of information legislation showed that cases of dampness reported in social rented homes in the Capital have soared almost ten-fold from 122 in 2019 up to 1,215 in 2022. Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I’ve never known the housing situation in Edinburgh to dominate my casework in-tray so much – whether that's scarcity of social housing, with people waiting years to get a house; or dilapidation in both private and council property, with extreme levels of damp and mould and other structural problems; overcrowding; and people not finding private-sector letting a viable option, given the rampant rent inflation in the city.
"This is a perfect storm at all levels of housing need up to mid-market, while the city keeps building what are effectively mansions in our green belt – that doesn't actually relieve the pressure at more affordable levels. The government’s brutal slashing of council budgets had left local authorities without the ability to provide widespread, high-quality housing for their most vulnerable constituents. Addressing damp and dilapidation in housing must be a top priority for the new government. It must reverse the cuts to council budgets.”
He hopes the housing summit at Holyrood on May 24 will help bring about progress on the issue. “I don't think anyone has ever brought together all of these stakeholders in this way and for me this is not just a one-off – this, I hope, will become a working group that will meet for as long as it takes to start seeing change and action.
“Housing is everything – if you don't have permanent adequate housing it undermines your health, your learning opportunities, your employment opportunities. We know that poor housing shortens lives and bad housing is also linked to a range of other social inequalities like poverty, substance use issues, poor mental health. Housing is at the heart of everything – if you don't have a warm, safe secure home then you really don’t have a strong foundation for anything else in your life.”
Ms McFarland says her landlords have finally said they will do something about the damp and mould which she and her husband and three children have been living with for the past year. “I think it’s only because the health visitor for my son and Alex Cole-Hamilton are now involved and got in contact with them – I think that's why they're starting to get their finger out. I don’t know what they’re going to do, or whether it will solve the problem.”
Landlords Orchard and Shipman were contacted for comment.