in the UK, a student documents poor housing

In the United Kingdom, Kwajo Tweneboa has made a name for himself on social networks with his videos warning about poor housing across the country. For several years he himself lived in substandard social housing in London with his dying father and two sisters. He testifies to his journey.

In January 2020, Kwajo Tweneboa saw his father die from terminal esophageal cancer. It was in south London, in their family home infested with cockroaches, mice, rats and asbestos that her father spent his last days, accompanied somehow by a medical team.

The 24-year-old student remembers the main room of this apartment with moldy walls without light. For nearly 18 months, Kwajo Tweneboa has petitioned the building’s owner, the Clarion Group – the UK’s and Europe’s largest social landlord – to request repairs within the flat.

To speed up the process, he also decides to post photos of his apartment and other accommodation in his neighborhood on Twitter. Clarion eventually carried out renovations in 500 homes, including the one where Kwajo Tweneboa lived.

“Even animals should not live in these conditions”

Since then, on his TikTok account, the young Briton has continued to warn about living conditions in social housing or low-rent private housing throughout the United Kingdom.

Contacted by our editorial staff, the young man explains:

I have visited homes flooded with sewage, I have seen countless homes infested with rats and cockroaches, and hundreds of homes overrun with mold. Thousands of people have contacted me across the country, sending me photos of their homes and telling me about the terrible experiences they have had trying to apply for renovations.

Even animals should not live in such conditions. It’s inhumane. I fight tirelessly for tenants to be treated like human beings. But it shouldn’t be up to a 24-year-old activist to denounce this shame: owners should know the difference between what is normal and what is not.

In this video on November 27, 2022, Kwajo Tweneboa films housing in Islington, a district of London.

Video posted on Twitter on November 28 showing numerous spiders in the walls of a building in south London.

Thanks to his publications, Kwajo Tweneboa succeeded in getting some landlords and owners to react. In February 2022, a family was urgently relocated to a hotel after a video emerged of their apartment – managed by L&Q, a housing association operating in Greater London – infested with cockroaches. A new permanent home has since been allocated to the family.

“People are dying and owners are turning a blind eye”

According to the UK National Health Service (NHS), people living with damp or mold in their homes are more likely to contract respiratory diseases, infections or asthma.

According to the World Health Organizationnearly 130,000 deaths, associated with inadequate housing conditions, are recorded each year in Europe.

For Kwajo Tweneboa, thousands of social housing tenants live in conditions that are dangerous to their health:

For decades, some tenants have been asking their landlords to fulfill their contractual health and safety obligations. Residents are dying, but owners continue to turn a blind eye. Their complaints are ignored and they are still forced to pay.

Once I had to take injured people to the hospital in their own house: the ceiling had partially collapsed on the tenants while they were cooking. They had complained about cracks in the ceiling, but nothing had been done. One of the tenants was disabled and had spent nearly a year without a working toilet in his unit because no one had come to fix it. I then brought this story to light on social media, and the next day someone came to fix it.

In November 2020, according to a surveytwo-year-old Awaab Ishak died due to prolonged exposure to mold in the flat where he lived in northern England.

The child’s father, Faisal Abdullah, had however complained about the state of the accommodation on several occasions, but no action had been taken.

Awaab Ishak’s death is far from the first tragedy linked to poor living conditions in social housing in the UK.

In 2017, 72 people died in the fire of the tour Grenfella west London apartment building. worries had been raised years before the incident regarding the materials used for the exterior cladding of the building.

More than five years later, the situation for the UK’s poorest tenants has not changed much. With the cost of living crisis and low winter temperatures, the situation is only getting worse, as Kwajo Twenebo explains:

It’s a real shame. Politicians speak of ‘lessons learned’ since Grenfell, but clearly no lessons have been learned. I fear that similar tragedies will occur and that other tenants will die in their accommodation.

In this video posted on Twitter on December 11, Kwajo Twenebo Kwajo explains that tenants use their oven to keep warm during the coldest winter months.

Visits to homes in other countries

The roots of Britain’s housing crisis can be traced back to the government of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Housing Act 1980which gave tenants the right to buy their social housing at a reduced price.

Over time, the amount of money that landlords could keep to create new housing was reduced and the supply of replacement housing declined. People who still needed social housing found it all the more difficult to find one.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, the average renter in social housing paid the equivalent of 7,50 € rent per week. When she left power in 1990, tenants were paying 30 euros per weekan increase of 370%.

In recent decades, the situation has also become more complicated: austerity has led to numerous budget cuts in housing services. And the waiting time for people applying for social housing has lengthened.

The lack of social housing has forced many low-income households to turn to the lower end of the private rental market, where they have even fewer rights than social housing tenants.

According to Kwajo Tweneboa, many tenants living in poor conditions in private accommodation dare not complain for fear that their landlord will issue an eviction notice without giving a reason.

Social housing is not just in crisis in the UK. And Kwajo Tweneboa also receives housing photos from other countries. In January 2023, he will even travel to the United States to meet with people on the subject of American social housing. He is also planning a trip to Paris later in the year.

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