Editor’s comment: Be suspicious of tales with a happy ending

Water drips from a lightbulb in Kike Ogunseye's flat at Colley House in the Hilldrop Estate. Picture

Water drips from a lightbulb in Kike Ogunseye's flat at Colley House in the Hilldrop Estate. Picture: POLLY HANKCOCK - Credit: Archant

Newspapers aren’t meant to say this sort of thing, but I don’t believe we paint the most accurate picture of housing in Islington.

I’m not talking about “media bias” or “lazy reporting” or “fake news” or anything else on Donald Trump’s bingo card. What I mean is: every time we contact the council about someone’s dire straits, it works to put things right. Why wouldn’t it? So people get visits and phone calls, work is scheduled, apologies are made.

But as Islington’s own leader has noted, large amounts of the borough’s housing stock are not up to scratch. And while we do our best to speak to a wide range of people – those who ring up, those we seek out, those who come to our attention through involvement with charities and politicians and contacts – we still give the impression almost every housing story has a happy ending. And the truth is that isn’t the case.

Not because Islington is negligent, or cruel, or blind. But because it faces an overwhelming task: not enough money, or homes, or freedom. And of course I don’t believe officers sit around waiting for us to contact them before they decide who to help.

But it’s clear the town hall acts particularly quickly on the worst cases we put before it – and in doing so, it massages the full scale of the housing crisis for our readers. Water has been dripping through Kike Ogunseye’s ceiling for five years, yet the council arranged an emergency plumber to visit days after we called.

Clearly I don’t want the council to refuse to help people just to make a political point. But I do believe our most telling housing stories are the ones that lack happy endings.

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Last year Islington’s own health and care scrutiny committee recommended moving everyone whose damp homes were making them ill. Now, finally, we learn the obvious: it’s unaffordable.

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