From Homeownership to Homelessness: Bureaucratic Indifference in the RAAC Housing Crisis Leaves Thousands Outraged

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London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) In our last newsletter, we reported on the distressing evacuation of 399 homes in Torry, Aberdeen, following the discovery of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).Among those impacted is our dedicated volunteer, Hannah Chowdhry, who, at the tender age of 19, purchased a home only to receive a letter from Aberdeen City Council two months later, warning her of the imminent risk of her roof collapsing and endangering her life (click here).

We are steadfast in our commitment to keeping you informed about Hannah’s tireless campaign as she battles against the bureaucratic indifference prevailing across the UK, while also studying for a law degree. This indifference has already resulted in the displacement of numerous residents, who now find themselves grappling with the burden of council-provided temporary housing costs at the same time as mortgage payments for properties they have lost, all amidst the challenges posed by a cost-of-living crisis (click here).

Homeowners, leaseholders, and tenants alike have voiced their grievances, alleging that council-built properties were constructed using substandard materials. They argue that councils knowingly sold these properties, fully aware of the associated risks, yet are now evading responsibility for the financial burdens borne by homeowners and private tenants. Additionally, they accuse councils of inadequately funding relocations for council tenants.

Amidst these injustices, there is a growing demand for a national fund to provide financial assistance to those affected, alongside calls for a Public Inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding this crisis. As we continue to advocate for accountability and justice, we urge all stakeholders to heed these calls and take meaningful action to address the plight of those impacted by the RAAC housing crisis.

The RAAC housing crisis has escalated, impacting thousands of homes, as highlighted in a damning report by the Scottish Housing Regulator. The report sheds light on several councils grappling with RAAC-related issues.

In response to these challenges, Hannah Chowdhry has assumed the role of Chairman of the Torry Community RAAC Campaign. This grassroots organization is pressing Aberdeen City Council to acknowledge mistakes made in selling properties with a latent defect and failing in their duty of care by neglecting annual inspections of RAAC roofs, as outlined in a 1995 British Research Establishment report.

Teaming up with her father, Wilson Chowdhry, they are spearheading efforts to establish a nationwide advocacy group representing all individuals affected by RAAC across the UK. This inclusive group will encompass private tenants, council tenants, leaseholders, and homeowners.

To foster connections and amplify their cause, Wilson and Hannah have traversed the UK, leveraging social media platforms to engage with affected individuals. They have established a Facebook page called the UK RAAC Campaign Group (click here) to facilitate communication and solidarity among members.

Their activism culminated in a pivotal moment when Hannah and Wilson led a deputation to Aberdeen City Council, where Hannah delivered an impassioned address urging accountability and action. To witness Hannah’s address and learn more about their campaign, you can watch the video provided.

After the deputation, Aberdeen City Council made some small concessions regarding the relocation of tenants and homeowners from the Balnagask Estate, offering a glimmer of hope to those affected by the ongoing crisis. As per the agreement reached by councillors, displaced tenants will have the first option to return to their former homes, while homeowners will be given priority for relocation to newly constructed homes within the estate. Furthermore, Chief Officers responsible for Corporate Landlord, Capital, and Housing are tasked with investigating funding opportunities to support owner-occupiers, with a report slated for the next committee meeting. While these measures provide some relief, they represent only modest progress in addressing the challenges faced by those impacted. Advocacy for a fair and comprehensive resolution will continue until all affected individuals receive the support they require.

The father-daughter duo has initiated a petition that has quickly garnered over 1000 signatures and continues to gain momentum. This surge in support underscores the widespread concern and urgency surrounding the RAAC housing crisis.

The petition calls for accountability and redress from Aberdeen City Council and other councils across the UK regarding the use of substandard building materials, specifically reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), in the construction of properties in the Balnagask area. It demands that these councils fund inspections and repairs for affected homes, regardless of ownership, and take responsibility for the dangers imposed on hundreds of families.

The Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, and UK Government to establish national funds to support struggling homeowners and tenants who purchased ex-council homes without being informed about the use of substandard materials.

The UK Government to allocate a national fund to support all individuals affected by RAAC, providing financial assistance for inspections, repairs, and evacuations.

Aberdeen City Council and other involved councils to reconsider their decision to withhold financial assistance from affected homeowners and tenants and to fulfill their obligation to rectify hazardous conditions in properties.

The Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland Parliaments, as well as the UK Parliament, to enact legislation holding councils and housing associations accountable for constructing properties with substandard materials like RAAC. This legislation would mandate disclosure of associated risks at the time of sale, require pre-purchase Home Buyer Reports and surveys to identify defects and hold entities liable for any failure to identify risks.

A public inquiry into the practices of councils and housing associations concerning RAAC, investigating their business conduct related to RAAC, disclosure practices, and responses to homeowner concerns.

Signing the petition doesn’t require personal involvement in the issue or to be a UK citizen, and we encourage everyone to participate. Your signature can make a difference in advocating for accountability and support for those affected by the RAAC crisis. Join us in urging authorities to take action by signing the petition today (here).

Several updates have been shared on Wilson Chowdhry’s blog, accessible at the following link: https://wilsonsthirdway.blogspot.com/. You can find more information and updates by visiting the provided links:

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We include Hannah Chowdhry’s deputation to Aberdeen City Council below:

Ladies and gentlemen of the Aberdeen City Council, I stand before you today not just as a law student at Aberdeen University but as a young homeowner, a citizen of this city, and someone deeply concerned about the welfare and safety of our community. It is with a heavy heart that I express my deep concern for the welfare and safety of our fellow citizens who have been let down by the very governmental systems meant to protect them. My name is Hannah Chowdhry, and I’m here to shed light on a pressing issue that affects not just me, but countless other homeowners in Aberdeen and beyond.

In June 2023, I made what I believed to be a significant investment – purchasing a former council house in Torry, Aberdeen. Little did I know that just a few months later, in September 2023, I would receive a letter from Aberdeen City Council, informing me of a critical concern: the roof of my property was constructed with substandard concrete, posing an imminent risk of collapse due to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

The council’s response to this crisis has been deeply disappointing, to say the least. While they have taken some steps to inspect council-owned properties, they have largely absolved themselves of any responsibility towards homeowners like myself, leaving us to fend for ourselves in a situation that could be perceived as being caused by their negligence. Despite being aware of the dangers posed by RAAC since a report by the British Research Establishment in 1995, they have adamantly refused to provide any financial assistance or support.  This pattern of betrayal is not unique to Aberdeen City Council but is mirrored by councils across the UK. It is a systemic failure that has left countless homeowners feeling abandoned and betrayed by the very institutions that are meant to protect them.

Losing oversight of the RAAC problem and rediscovering it later does not absolve the council of their moral duty, inherent in their responsibility of governance. Some may even argue that this oversight has led to the sale of properties with a latent defect to unsuspecting homebuyers. This raises questions about whether adequate inspections of RAAC were conducted annually, potentially bringing negligence and duty of care practices into question. It is imperative that we hold our governing bodies accountable for their actions, ensuring that they uphold their duty to protect the safety and well-being of their constituents.

My father, Wilson Chowdhry, and I have relentlessly pursued solutions, repeatedly reaching out to the council for assistance. Regrettably, our efforts have been met with silence or vague assurances, contingent upon discussions with the Scottish government. However, these initial efforts were eventually discarded without apology, replaced by alarming threats of evacuating and demolishing all council-owned homes in our area. Such a drastic measure would not only absolve the council of its responsibility but also strip our properties of their equity, rendering them virtually worthless in what would inevitably become a desolate and abandoned area. It is evident that Aberdeen City Council is aware of this, yet they seem to be opting for the most disruptive option proposed by Fairhurst surveyors during the planned decant phase. This process disregards warnings about rising homelessness and a shortage of housing stock, and it will undoubtedly impact the dignity of proud but struggling homeowners like ourselves.

The burden placed on homeowners to bear the costs of inspections and potential repairs is not only unjust but also unsustainable. This is particularly challenging for young individuals like myself who have diligently invested their hard-earned savings into our homes, only to find ourselves on the brink of financial ruin due to circumstances beyond our control. However, it’s important to acknowledge that our concerns should not overshadow the needs of elderly individuals who have devoted their lives to their homes.

Furthermore, I must draw attention to the plight of four individuals in our community who are currently undergoing palliative care. Despite the challenges we face, it’s imperative that support reaches those who are most vulnerable and in need of assistance during such trying times.

It’s also crucial to note that the majority of council houses, including those in Torry, are situated in some of the most deprived communities and are prominently featured in indices of deprivation studies. This underscores the urgent need for comprehensive action to address the systemic issues contributing to the difficulties faced by residents in these areas.

We have explored every avenue available to us, from contacting local and national media to seeking legal advice, yet the roadblocks remain.  Despite the setbacks, we are steadfast in our determination not to remain silent. It is unacceptable for homeowners like myself to bear the brunt of the consequences of the council’s past mistakes. We demand accountability, transparency, and, most importantly, swift action to rectify this injustice.

This role demands a significant commitment of my time and energy, often taking me away from my challenging studies. However, the palpable threat of homelessness facing myself and many others leaves us with no other option but to advocate fiercely for our rights and well-being.

I implore each and every one of you to sincerely contemplate the human toll of this issue. Beyond mere statistics and budgetary constraints lie families, homes, and futures hanging precariously in the balance. We cannot allow bureaucratic red tape and political wrangling to obstruct us from taking decisive action and doing what is morally right. The urgency of this matter is heightened by the looming threat of roof collapses, reminiscent of the tragic incident at Grenfell Tower. Lives are in jeopardy, and struggling families are already grappling to make ends meet, burdened with tens of thousands in expenses to ensure their safety.

Therefore, I call upon the Aberdeen City Council to:

Acknowledge their responsibility for the use of substandard building materials in council properties and the subsequent risks posed to homeowners due to the failure to address the situation upon the expiration of the 30-year lifespan of RAAC panels.

Provide immediate financial assistance and support to homeowners affected by RAAC, including funding for inspections and potential repairs.

Work collaboratively with the Scottish government to secure the necessary funding and resources to address this crisis effectively.

Conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the use of RAAC in council properties and the failure to disclose pertinent information to homeowners.

Implement proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents, both current and future, by prioritizing the replacement of RAAC in affected properties.

In closing, I urge you to remember that behind every policy decision and every budgetary allocation, there are real people whose lives are profoundly impacted. If you turn a blind eye to their struggles or shirk your responsibilities as elected officials, then how can you be entrusted with the welfare of our community.

Today presents a pivotal opportunity to rectify a grievous wrong and to send a resounding message to people everywhere: that local democracy in Aberdeen, in Scotland, and in the UK remains committed to safeguarding the most vulnerable individuals within our communities. It is a reaffirmation that the principles upon which this proud nation was built still endure, serving as a beacon of hope and justice for all. Let our actions today resonate not only within our borders but also echo around the world, inspiring others to uphold the values of fairness, compassion, and inclusivity.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope that what you take from my address today is the need to ensure that every homeowner in Aberdeen can feel safe and secure in their own homes, Liberated from the looming threat of RAAC.

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

On demand of our readers, I have decided to release E-Book version of "Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" on website of PCP which can also be viewed on website of Pakistan Christian Congress www.pakistanchristiancongress.org . You can read chapter wise by clicking tab on left handside of PDF format of E-Book.

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