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Family of 13 squeezed into 3-bed mouldy house plead for new home as pregnant mum sick

In Europe
May 21, 2024

A dad living with his 11 children and heavily pregnant wife in a cramped and overcrowded Newham house has said he is concerned for his family’s health. Wahidullah Safi, 35, said he, his wife Bibi Aziza Safi, 45, and children have all developed chesty coughs since living in the three-bed Canning Town home where black mould consistently grows, which is also ridden with mice and has only one toilet and shower.

But the family’s efforts to appeal to both Newham and Greenwich councils for help have so far proven unsuccessful. Mr Safi said that despite sending pictures of the returning mould to Newham Council and receiving a preliminary check-up visit, no further action has been taken.

He also claimed the council took five months to fix a hazardous loose wire in one of the bedrooms. After a lengthy online application process, the family was told it is not eligible for rehousing in Newham, because they have not yet lived there for three years.

READ MORE: London borough ‘worst by far’ for number of households in temporary accommodation

Wahidullah (pictured centre) out with some of his children in London near Tower Bridge

Wahidullah (pictured centre with some of his children) is growing particularly anxious about his wife’s health, who is ‘not well’ and is due to give birth to their 12th child any day now -Credit:Wahidullah Safi

Mr Safi said: ‘Newham Council has done nothing. They sent a person to take pictures of the damp, who said ‘this is very dangerous for the children, we have a team we can send round’. Since then, I have not seen anyone.” He added that he has resorted to repeatedly repainting the walls in the house himself in an effort to keep the mould at bay, but ‘the damp always comes again,’ continuing: “It’s a difficult life.”

Family fled Afghanistan to start a new life in London

Mr Safi’s wife and children fled to the UK from Afghanistan in 2022, following the Taliban’s invasion of Kabul. As Mr Safi was already a long-term resident in the UK, where he works as a delivery driver, he said the British Army agreed to aid the family’s passage to the UK via Dubai.

The family lived in temporary accommodation in Central London for a year, before Greenwich Council stepped in to secure them a permanent home, where they are now living in Newham, as Mr Safi had previously resided in Greenwich for seven years. The family struggle to fit in the three-bed home with three children having to sleep in the living room each night.

Black mould all over the ceiling and walls in the shower room of the family's home in Newham

The black mould continues to reappear throughout the family’s home, no matter how many times Wahidullah paints over it -Credit:Wahidullah Safi

As the property is located in the borough of Newham, but was found by Greenwich Council, Mr Safi claims neither local authority will take responsibility or the family’s case seriously. When his application for rehousing was rejected by Newham Council, he said he was directed to speak to Greenwich Council, who he says six months later directed him back to Newham Council.

When approached by MyLondon for comment, a spokesperson for Newham Council said: “Mr Safi and his family were helped to move in to this privately rented property in Newham by the London Borough of Greenwich. We are aware of the substandard conditions in the property. As this is a privately rented property [managed by the agency Freshview] not managed by Newham Council, our private rented sector housing enforcement team has been liaising with the landlord to address the disrepair.

“The landlord has informed us that some improvement works have been made to rectify some of these issues, but we are aware that the overcrowding in the property still remains an issue of concern. We are currently working with the London Borough of Greenwich to resolve the situation and we are in direct contact with the family to discuss their housing options.”

Cushions piled up in the family home which are used for bedding each night

Cushions piled up in the family home which are used for bedding each night -Credit:Amelia Stout

A Greenwich Council spokesperson echoed this statement, adding: “We are currently working with Newham Council to resolve the situation and we are in direct contact with Mr Safi to support him in finding more suitable accommodation, however it is harder to find larger family homes.

“Unfortunately, there is a housing crisis in London and we have more than 27,000 households on our housing waiting list, and more than 1,900 households living in temporary accommodation. With homelessness sadly at record levels, it is a huge challenge for local authorities across the capital and beyond.”

Mr Safi claimed he has also taken the case to his local MP, Lyn Brown MP for West Ham, and subsequently the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, Matthew Pennycook, to no avail. He said: “Lyn Brown said talk to Matthew Pennycook. Matthew Pennycook said you have to talk to Lyn Brown. Greenwich Housing said talk to Newham. Newham Housing said talk to Greenwich. We are in the middle. I don’t know where else we can go.”

Black mould covering the ceiling of one of the rooms in the family's Newham home

The family feel as though they are stuck in ‘the middle’ while different authorities fail to take the lead in finding them a safe place to live -Credit:Wahidullah Safi

A spokesperson for Ms Brown said: ‘Lyn did not advise Mr Safi to approach Greenwich Council but rather conveyed to him a response received from Newham Council following her representations on his behalf, advising that Newham Council would not be in a position to rehouse him given he has not yet lived in the borough for three years.”

A spokesperson for Mr Pennycook said: “The address and postcode provided previously by Mr Safi indicated that he and his family are actually residents of the West Ham constituency represented by Lyn Brown MP. While Mr Pennycook takes the issues the family raised extremely seriously, strict parliamentary rules prohibit him from making representations on behalf of or responding in full to those who are not his own constituents.

“It is also the case that Mr Pennycook is not a member of Greenwich Council nor responsible in any way for the services it provides, including in relation to housing and temporary accommodation.”

Mr Safi said he is growing particularly anxious about his wife’s health, who is ‘not well’ and is due to give birth to their 12th child any day now. MyLondon has made multiple attempts to contact Freshview but has not received a response.

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