Councillors approve task force to tackle Custom House temporary housing issues

Residents celebrate after the council meeting Picture: Hero Austin

Residents celebrate after the council meeting Picture: Hero Austin - Credit: Hero Austin

Councillors have unanimously voted to establish a task force to tackle temporary housing problems in Custom House.

The motion, tabled by Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz at Monday night’s full council meeting, will see a team led by the mayor advisor for housing, Cllr Terry Paul, and including ward councillors and relevant council officers, examine the range of issues and concerns living in Mears-managed properties.

As part of the regeneration of Canning Town and Custom House, a number of houses were designated some years ago to be used as temporary accommodation.

A concession agreement was awarded to Tando, now known as Mears, to run the properties in 2011.

But tenants living in the properties have been calling on the council to take back control, citing rising rent and the failure to address problems including cockroaches and dodgy repairs.

Cllr Fiaz said: “It was in late 2015 when I first became alert to the Tando issue.

“At the time, I didn’t make the connection with the temporary housing concession agreement that Newham Council had made.

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“Since then, there has been an avalanche of casework, meetings with residents, plus house visits. What I have seen, what I have heard has been appalling.”

She added: “What’s more appalling is as that we, as Newham Council, have a contract with them.”

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Conor McAuley said: “Initially, it went well. Initially, they were actually better at managing the properties than we were. I used to get those comments back from Tando tenants.

“But things have deteriorated over the years. Their rents have crept up and so they’re being charged commerical rents for what is still council property, and that’s not right.

“The idea that a tenant be charged £150 if an owner comes out to look at a repair, that’s outrageous.”

The meeting heard how residents had visited Cllr Paul at a surgery two weeks ago.

He said: “Today I found out about this £150 penalty charge. I gave a strict instruction to my officer to ring Tando to refund that money as quick as possible.

“I find it unacceptable that Tando, Mears, Omega, whatever they call themselves, institute a charge without telling tenants.

“What we have formed is a task force that will look at all the issues regarding what’s going on.”

The residents have been supported by community organsiation PEACH, and some of those affected attended East Ham Town Hall to watch the meeting.

Afterwards, Samantha Napa said: “It’s absolutely amazing. I feel like we have been finally listened to.”

Fellow resident Mabel Amponsah added: “We feel like we have won £1 million but we have no cash in our pockets.”

A spokesman for Mears said: “We are working closely with local residents and Newham Council to understand their concerns and working together to address these.

“We have recently attended a number of open evenings with the council to meet tenants and get their feedback and address any outstanding repairs.

“We understand that living in temporary accommodation can be unsettling for residents and have advised the council that we are happy to meet with the residents to look at specific issues and work positively with them to resolve these.”