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Housing Executive sends Belfast couple and young son to home 'unfit for humans'

By Claire McNeilly

Published 03/08/2016

Rachelle Austin and Logan in his bedroom, which was left with bare walls after work to eradicate damp was not finished
Rachelle Austin and Logan in his bedroom, which was left with bare walls after work to eradicate damp was not finished

A mother has criticised the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) for relocating her family to a house she described as unfit for human habitation.

Rachelle Wilson (23) and her fiance, Matthew Wood, were initially delighted when they were offered the opportunity to swap a cramped one-bedroom home for a two-bedroom flat that would benefit their son, Logan.

But, according to Ms Wilson, the property was covered in damp so terrible that her son, who suffers from asthma and is blind in one eye, was forced to stay with his grandmother.

The couple also borrowed money to stay in a hotel at the weekend because they could no longer cope with trying to live in property in south Belfast.

Ms Wilson and 26-year-old Mr Wood, who are both unfit to work, called on the NIHE to urgently find them a house that will not endanger their health.

"We had been living in a maisonette in south Belfast that was completely unsuitable for the three of us, so we were really delighted when we were allowed to move," Ms Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph.

"But when we moved into our new home here on May 23, we immediately noticed the rising damp.

"There was a terrible smell and the wallpaper was peeling off the walls.

"There are also stains all over the bottom of the walls the whole way up the hall, around the electric box, in the kitchen and in the two bedrooms."

An NIHE spokeswoman told this newspaper that its officials were currently addressing the problem.

Ms Wilson, who has been recuperating since breaking her leg in an accident last December, said maintenance officers had visited the property on numerous occasions, but there was still much to be done.

"Work has been carried out but left unfinished, and our home is now a complete mess," she added. "How can anyone expect us to live like this?

"Logan had been staying with my 63-year-old mother for two weeks because the living conditions have been badly affecting his asthma.

"He has now had to return home because my dad recently had an accident at work and my mum has to care for him.

"There's no one else who can look after Logan, and we're really worried about his health."

As well as moving their son out, the couple's furniture and other possessions have suffered because of the damp.

"We got a new £400 mattress as a present for moving into the flat and it's ruined," Ms Wilson explained. "This flat is not suitable for human habitation."

A spokeswoman from the NIHE insisted the issue would be resolved within a fortnight.

"A report of damp at this property was received in June, and a full investigation was undertaken to establish the most appropriate steps to take," the spokeswoman added.

"Work to install a damp-proof course has started in the affected areas and is due to be completed in approximately two weeks.

"We visited our tenant on Monday regarding the matter and will continue to remain in contact."

Belfast Telegraph

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