Story & photos: Michelle Cook
The Decent Homes scheme has arrived on Carwood and Firshill estates. This is the Government scheme to improve council housing, paid for by millions of pounds of central government grants topped up with money from the council's capital receipts.
Local tenants' representatives have some concerns about the implementation of the Decent Homes Scheme on the Carwood estate. It surrounds the very heart and hearth of the home…the kitchen. It seems there has been a breakdown in communication regarding their refurbishment and this is causing a rift on the estate.
Promise of new kitchens
Surveyors from Sheffield Homes and their contractors visiting Carwood tenants in November told them their kitchens would be done under the scheme, measurements and plans were made and tenants signed and kept copies of these plans; by December they were told they were not. The TARA is aware of some tenants who bought new appliances on the strength of signing the plans and are now out of pocket.
Under the Decent Homes standard guidelines, a landlord should assess a property to determine whether or not components need repairing or replacing
“The component should only be replaced when a component:
Is sufficiently damaged that it is impossible to repair;
Is unsuitable because material deteriorated or because component was never suitable;
Even if the component was repaired, it would need replacing within 5 years.”
Fears of a patch up job
Some of the kitchen units are in this state of disrepair, as cupboards and drawers have actually fallen off due to wood crumbling around the fixings and therefore qualifying to be replaced under the Decent Homes Scheme. However they have been passed to the maintenance department for patch up repairs.
Residents told to wait
The deterioration appears to have been caused by faults in the fittings and glue during manufacture. Although these defects were identified some time ago, tenants were told to wait until the next scheme came round to have it rectified.
Questions about whether 2003 kitchens would be done were repeatedly asked by tenant reps, over the years and the answer was always yes. Sheffield Homes denies that anyone was ever told this, they say that this work was never down to be done on the scheme and will never be done under it. If this is the case why were these kitchens surveyed and designed?
Concern about the Sheffield Decent Homes Standard
Anger was expressed by tenants, at Carwood AGM on 5th February about changes to the Decent Homes programme. In attendance was Councillor Ibrar Hussain who told the meeting, “Questions are being asked as to why the Council has changed the standard. Labour said bathrooms and kitchens would be replaced if they are over 20 years old. This administration will only replace them if they are 30 years old.”
Relief for tenants
Labour councillors launched a city wide petition which was presented to the full council on 4th March, by Carwood tenants calling for all Sheffield tenants to be treated fairly regarding the Decent Homes work. In reply Council cabinet member for housing, Cllr Bob McCann said he would investigate what has happened and what is to be done.
The Council has now agreed to assess all homes under the Sheffield Standard, which is a big relief to many hundreds of tenants not already on the scheme and an investigation to solve the confusion about the kitchens is underway.
Confusion about kitchen’s remains
In recent weeks the work on the 6 year old kitchens has been passed from Decent Home to maintanence and then back to Decent Homes. Causing confusion and destress for the tenants concerned as to whether their kitchen will be replaced or patched up. Cllr Steve Jones said,
“It's been a nightmare for the people concerned. Local councillors will continue to work with Carwood to get justice for the local residents.”
When we asked Sheffield Homes what reassurances they could give to tenants, unfortuntately they had none. Jon Lovibond, Director of Investment at Sheffield Homes said,
“We are sorry for any inconvenience or misunderstanding caused. The majority of the kitchens on the Carwood estate were replaced in 2003 and therefore already meet the Decent Homes standard because they are only 6 years old. However, we acknowledge that a cosmetic defect has developed on the cupboards of some of these kitchens where the laminate is coming off. We will be replacing or repairing the affected doors. Those kitchens that weren't replaced in 2003 will be surveyed for work under the Decent Homes programme.”
It is totally unacceptable that this argument between senior management is still continuing. The array of conflicting messages and failure to answer the questions of tenant reps is causing a great deal of frustration for tenants. David Fisher, Chair of Carwood TARA expressed the feelings of tenants,
“Council estates have suffered years of under-investment. With the demand for council housing continuing to rise the need to maintain our homes to the highest standards is clear. We need our national and local government to ensure the funding is there. The future of such programs should never be in doubt.”
6pm at St Peter's Church Hall, Lyons Street
Sheffield Homes and Local Councillors will be in attendance.
All welcome, Refreshments.