A new documentary has revealed the shocking conditions endured by scores of social renters around the country, often with council landlords who at the same time bring private landlords to book for similar poor management of their properties.

Surviving Squalor: Britain’s Housing Shame aired on Sunday night and was full of horror stories, apologies and a few happy endings.

It included footage of residents squelching across sodden carpets, being injured by falling ceiling debris and suffering breathing problems due to rampant mould.

The ITV documentary met tenants whose lives have been destroyed by squalid, dangerous social housing, with nearly all the interviewees in tears as they described their terrible living conditions.

In one flat, water dripped through electrical sockets, prompting an independent assessor to determine that there was a “100% chance of electrocution”. Many told of how they felt sub-human and ignored by councils and housing associations; one woman recorded at least 20 phone calls to Croydon Council, without success.

Based largely on the news reports ITV has carried in London, Birmingham and Croydon during the last year, it revisited residents for updates.

Repairs done

surviving squalor dan hewitt

Reporter Daniel Hewitt said these stories had put pressure on social landlords and indeed, all were followed by promises that councils and housing associations were going to rehome tenants or get repairs done.

However, Hewitt said these reports had generated thousands more messages from residents around the country suffering similar problems.

A Birmingham housing officer admitted how powerless they were to help the many thousands on its social housing list, while a councillor acknowledged that many were in properties that weren’t fit for purpose, but that there wasn’t enough cash to build all the new homes the city needed.

With one million fewer social rented homes than in 1980, and councils’ repair budgets slashed, there’s a perfect storm which has created slums similar to those they were built to eradicate, according to the programme, which is costing the NHS dearly as a result of tenants’ resulting health problems.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was also interviewed and put the blame firmly on councils’ and housing associations’ poor management.


  1. Yes – it wasn’t a great idea to force many 1 or 2 property landlords out of the PRS, was it? People who have a rather more personal investment in ensuring the asset they own is properly protected and maintained. Far more renters in future are going to be at the mercy of commercial and social landlords untroubled by such concerns about the actual state of housing; and with rather more about minimising costs.

    Who could possibly have foreseen that such a thing might happen?

  2. What a great piece of investigative journalism. Has no one started a petition to get the government to take action to get to the bottom of this and see justice for all those living in substandard housing and causing misery, ill health to thousands if not millions of men, women and children who cannot help themselves. We need voices of the many to shame this government, local authorities and private landlords into action. Landlords are making money from residents misery. It has to be challenged now.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here