An urgent investigation will take place into the “atrocious conditions” that dozens of council tenants are being subjected to in high rise flats in the Capital – as a leading charity hit out at the authority.
Tenant union Living Rent revealed that at least 40 tenants at six council high rise flats in Muirhouse are putting up with the conditions including widespread damp, mould and asbestos risk – while residents say they have no point of contact for emergency repairs.
Conservative Councillor Graham Hutchison put forward an urgent motion at the council’s North West Locality Committee, calling on officers to investigate the scale of the problems, including how many people are affected and for how long residents have been “living in insufferable conditions”.
He added: “This is urgent because we as a council are failing in our duty to help some of our most vulnerable residents.
“If this was a private landlord, there would be outrage. We have been handed a leaflet that says the council is a slum landlord and it would be very hard, having seen what we were shown in people’s homes, to say that this wasn’t the case.”
The SNP/Labour council administration called for no action, which would have halted the investigation, pointing to a briefing paper that indicated work was already being done to address the situation. Ward councillors Cammy Day and Norman Work along with Cllr Eleanor Bird and Cllr Frank Ross failed in an attempt to block the motion. The council will spend around £500m over the next 15 years to bring existing homes up to a new-build standard – including a “phased approach” to the six Muirhouse blocks. Housing officers have completed face to face surveys with around 100 Muirhouse tenants and residents will be invited to consultation events.
Cllr Ross said: “There is no doubt that everybody is entitled to decent housing conditions. I do find it concerning that the residents feel they have to organise into a group to get some action – that cannot be right and acceptable. We all want the conditions to be improved.
“I think we have to take it that work is happening there, people are being consulted with. If this doesn’t work or turns out to be incorrect, then I would agree that we need to take a firmer action.
“Personally I would be proposing no action in regard to this emergency motion because action is already under way.”
Posting on Twitter, Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang said that “proposing no action was an absolute insult to the people I represent”. Speaking at the meeting, he added: “I think there is a recognition that the contents of that briefing paper may not have adequately covered the scale of the problem, which unquestionably there is.
“Clearly a very serious problem has developed. I do not think it would be appropriate to have no action on an issue as serious as this.”
Housing charity Shelter Scotland has also called for the council to improve living conditions for its tenants.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “No-one should have to live in such atrocious conditions in 21st century Scotland. Damp and mould are terrible for people’s health, especially in children and elderly people.
“Councils should ensure that all their properties are of a decent standard and provide a safe and secure environment for their tenants.
“Anyone who is living in poor conditions or a damp home and their private or social landlord isn’t responding to their concerns, should seek housing advice as soon as possible. They can visit shelterscotland.org/getadvice”