"I can honestly say that my old house was in a lot better condition than this one." Mrs Breen
There's damp coming through the walls in the lounge and the bedroom, the kitchen's so bad three sets of units have rotted. And it's still not sorted. For pensioner Mrs Breen it's been eight years of worry, inconvenience and expense. Welcome to Salford Council's award winning, flagship Homeswap scheme.
For many years Mrs Breen lived in Fir Street, Langworthy. She owned her home, had loads of work done on it and even added an extra bedroom. Then, around ten years ago, she was told that it was being demolished to make way for an extension to Chimney Pot Park.
Her house never was demolished. Instead, like 349 other Victorian terraces, it was handed over to Urban Splash by Salford Council together with over £20million of public money to become re-born as one of the infamous `upside down' houses – which, when completed, had an average price tag of £120,000.
Mrs Breen, meanwhile, was `decanted' into Edmund Street, across Langworthy Road, as part of Salford Council's Homeswap scheme. This "pioneering", "exciting", "award winning regeneration project" saw over 130 former residents swap their old homes in the Chimney Pot Park streets for abandoned houses nearby that had been completely renovated by Council appointed builders.
The Homeswap houses got new kitchens and bathrooms, central heating, alarms, double glazing, paint jobs, rewiring, new doors, and "structural repairs". In all, around £25,000 was spent doing the houses up. But after only four months of living in her Homeswap, the problems started mounting for Mrs Breen.
It began with a leak in the bathroom, and then spread to damp in the kitchen and the lounge and the bedroom…
"I've been here eight years now and they've been back every year since I moved in to repair my kitchen" says Mrs Breen "I'm onto my third kitchen unit, they've all rotted because of the damp..."
She takes out a whole pile of photos taken over the years showing black mould forming on the ceilings, bits of plaster falling away and the kitchen in an absolute mess. Today, in the living room and bedroom there's damp patches showing through in her immaculately kept home.
And Mrs Breen, a pensioner who just wanted to live a quiet life, has had to become something of an expert on rendering and brickwork and roof repairs – because Salford Council, while admitting liability for the kitchen and bathroom, are saying that the damp problems in the lounge and bedroom are down to `wear and tear'.
"They were supposed to have spent £25,000 on this house and yet other houses in this street that haven't had anything spent on them for years don't have these problems" she says "They're expecting me to put it right but it's all down to them. I'm only on a pension and I can't afford it.
"With all the damp, my gas and electric bills have gone up because I've had blowers trying to take the water out and blow it dry" she adds "And for eight years I've had all this inconvenience. They've never even said `sorry'."
It seems pretty obvious to anyone - but Salford Council and its arms length housing management company, Salix - that the damp problems in the kitchen, bathroom, lounge and bedroom are linked by a dodgy roof, or guttering or rendering or whatever. But now Mrs Breen in her "pioneering", "exciting", "award winning" Homeswap house, is being forced to pay for what seems like shocking renovation work on her regenerated house.
"When I moved in they told me it was all going to be absolutely gutted and a lot better than the one I was in" she says "But I can honestly say that my old house was in a lot better condition than this one."
While the new Urban Splash residents in Fir Street enjoy Mrs Breen's old house, this pensioner's life has been turned upside down. Homeswap? "It's been eight years of hell" she says.
* We asked Salford Council for a comment and Councillor Peter Connor, lead member for housing said: "At the time Mrs Breen moved into the property some eight years ago she had the house privately surveyed and was happy with the refurbishments carried out.
"Dampness in the kitchen occurred around two years later which we worked with Mrs Breen to resolve and fund the repair works. Now, there is some plaster work in the kitchen that Mrs Breen would like us to do and we will be setting a date with her and the surveyor to do this.
"Separately, we're aware of damp elsewhere in the property. As this has been identified eight years after the original Homeswap scheme, further repair work is not covered under the agreement but we will help Mrs Breen, as a private homeowner, where we can."
See Urban Splash's Tom Bloxham partying in his Bubble House in the South of France here…