Neighbours celebrate Newham taking back control of homes

neighbours celebrate

Neighbours in Custom House celebrate Newham Council taking back control of their homes. - Credit: Idowu Oju

Neighbours are celebrating victory as their homes are returned to council control.

Newham is taking back dwellings in Custom House which were temporarily transferred to private company-turned-interim caretaker Mears.

The neighbour-led People's Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH) welcomed the move, saying residents will reap the benefits of what they describe as "decent" homes and "genuinely affordable" rent.

PEACH representative and former Mears tenant, Fayha Badi, said: "Just like when a mother delivers her baby, we are starting a bright new life.

"We are so proud to have won this campaign and worked with council officers to make it a reality."

Mears was responsible for managing properties in Custom House where families complained of living in "appalling" conditions.

PEACH member Suhad Nasir said: "We have had to fight so hard to get basic repairs sorted."

The arrangement between Mears and Newham followed a tendering exercise. The contract was put together in such a way that the town hall received rent payments from Mears while risk for repairs, voids and rent arrears were held by the firm.

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Rent levels were set by Newham and where homes in disrepair were adversely affected by "matters outside Mears's control", the company moved people to hotels and repaired damage, according to the firm.

Alan Long, Mears's executive director, blamed the saga on "political indecision and electoral promises" last summer.

Mears reports spending £400,000 annually on repairs to the homes which are earmarked for demolition by the council as part of the area's ongoing regeneration.

Tenants said Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz delivered on her election pledge, adding they felt hopeful they would no longer suffer neglect. 

And they have begun signing temporary contracts with the local authority, which is also to manage repairs.

PEACH expects rent levels to drop by about 60 per cent compared to the arrangement with Mears.

Its members hailed the building of a group which gave neighbours a voice and described the win as offering "huge hope" for other communities who also deserve quality council homes.

William Valesquez from PEACH said: "Now we can begin to rebuild our lives." 

Newham Council had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.