The Brownhills Blog has recently been contacted by a concerned resident of Humphries House in Brownhills, who is very perturbed about the state of the block, owned by Walsall Housing Group (WHG). The tower is easily recognisable on the Brownhills skyline as the last major towerblock left after the clearances of Waine and Bayley Houses in 2004.
Standing at 48 metres and 17 floors, it houses many tenants in approximately 100 flats and is one of the last remaining large concentrations of socialised apartments in the town.
Concerns have been raised by a number of occupants about the general state of repair, as well as concerns over antisocial and illegal behaviour by a number of tenants, often resulting in unusable, unhygenic lifts and unpleasant, smellly communal areas.
There seems to be a feeling amongst WHG’s longer-serving tenants that previous vetting standards for new clients have been lowered or removed, and that a minority are abusing the facilities provided.
Maintenance of Humphries House has always been difficult. Construction was completed in 1967 during the system building boom, and the structure suffers many of the flaws inherent in such designs. One major complaint centres around leaks in the fabric of the structure, and through my own research I have acquired the following pictures of a long term leak on the sixteenth floor communal hallway, which appear quite shocking. This problem was apparently first evident 25 years ago and has defied attempts to resolve it… the water sodden carpets smell, and that mould doesn’t look terribly healthy.
It’s unclear from the information I have whether this is a leak caused by a plumbing problem or by rain ingress – there’s definitely an issue with weather leakage on the eighth floor, where water leaks in to flats through cracks in the ceilings when rain hits the rear face of the building – in fact, I’ve been told this affects a number of tflats within the building.
Walsall housing group keep a list of communal area surveys in Excel format on their website on this page – for some reason, Humphries House is absent from the list, so one can only guess what the official view of this particular communal area actually is. Only a conspiracy theorist would suggest the omission was deliberate…
WHG have indicated to those who live in this unfortunate place that they intend not only to keep Humphries House open, but to refurbish it with the occupiers in situ. Since those occupiers have concerns about asbestos in the fabric of the structure – not entirely unreasonable considering the age and design of the flats – they are not entirely happy with the assurances given to them. The time spent stripping asbestos from the two previously demolished blocks before demolition would seem to indicate a fair quantity of the hazardous material present. Replacement of lifts with the elderly still in-situ also raises concerns – are the elderly residents expected to negotiate multiple flights of stairs while the replacement takes place? The lifts are so unreliable that both rarely work at the same time…
Walsall Housing Group need to think hard about these flats and consider the best course of action for their tenants. Repairs need to be executed properly and promptly in the short term, and the twin issues of security and bad tenant behaviour need to be adressed with additional safety systems and personnel if nescessary. In the longer term, any refurbishment needs to be considered carefully against the prospective longevity of the building and the discomfort and health of their clients.
To those in charge of this building and others like this, I ask this question: would you be happy to live here in these conditions? Is this the face of the organisation you want your clients to see?