Family’s four-year battle for a decent home

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An Embleton family is hoping that the end is in sight after four years living in a cold, damp and mouldy home.

Sarah Brown and her partner Alex Wood, who have two boys – five-year-old Thomas and Jack, 20 months – moved into a council property on the Greyfield Estate in March 2013.

Despite being told it was in a habitable condition, it took nine weeks, a lot of hard work and money, to get it sorted.

But the real problems started in November that year when water started pouring through the wall of the wooden-clad house. “It still does it to this day, depending on which way the wind is blowing,” said Sarah.

The frames around the windows are falling apart, one of the panes itself is broken and until recently there was mould all over the bathroom ceiling. Heating their home properly is prohibitively expensive.

Over the years, the family has been in touch with three different ward county councillors about the issues – the late John Taylor, Kate Cairns and now Wendy Pattison.

Philip Soderquest, head of housing at the county council, said: “The issues in relation to this property are extremely complex due to the nature of the construction, its age and the proximity to a privately-owned property. We have been in contact with the current tenants on a regular basis to update them on progress and have previously offered to find them alternative accommodation pending completion of the works.

“While work to develop the tender document and appoint a contractor to carry out the work has been delayed, and we apologise for that, we are fully committed to carrying out the required improvements and ensuring that the property meets the required standards.

“We hope to be in a position to start work in the next few months and have been actively seeking alternative accommodation for the family for the duration of this work.

“It is our intention to remove the external timber cladding and construct, on a new foundation, a brick skin, which will also help improve insulation and heat retention in the property.”

In October 2016, the family was told that the work would start after Christmas, which meant that they started packing up the house and are now living partly out of boxes.

But despite all the issues, Sarah says they are keen to return to the house when the problems are solved. Dad Kevin added: “They’ve spent money on it and tried to make it as homely as possible.”