Inside the estate where tenants deal with mould, floods, and stabbings – while landlord makes £100m surplus

When Erica’s daughter wants to go out to meet her friends at the cinema, she can’t just walk out of their front door like a normal 14-year-old would.

Erica Figueiredo, 42, has to escort her down the five floors of their council estate tower, ready to fend off any threats they might encounter in the stairwell. Her fears are justified, she explains, because last month eight people got into the building in balaclavas carrying knives in search of someone on their floor.

This is life on one of London’s most dilapidated and dangerous estates.

A 276-flat complex, Milford Towers in Catford, was earmarked for demolition in 2012. But over a decade later, the towers are still standing with signs of deterioration everywhere.

Six out of eight of the lifts are not working, graffiti is plastered across the hallway walls, the outside doors cannot be locked and one flat has been left completely burnt out by a fire.

Residents say there have been at least three stabbings on the estate in the past year, with gangs reported to attack rivals inside the complex because it’s less exposed than on the streets outside.

Housing association Nottinghill Genesis are in charge of the upkeep of the vast majority of the flats, while Lewisham council are responsible for the communal areas, but residents complain that their concerns get ignored.

For each of the past three years, Nottinghill Genesis Group, the not-for-profit social housing provider, has had a surplus before tax of over £100m, with the highest paid employee on a salary of £296,000.

In the last financial year, the housing association, which manages more than 60,000 properties in London, made an operating surplus of £97.2m from their social housing lettings.

While the housing association plugs money into new-build affordable and market rent homes in Hackney Wick and Newham, residents of Milford Tower say they are being left behind.

Lewisham council has contracted out the management of some 200 of the flats to Nottinghill Genesis, but they retain responsibility for the rest of the flats and for the communal areas.

Ms Figueiredo was forced to move out of her Nottinghill Genesis flat last summer when a leak on the eighth floor spread and started an electrical fire. She explained: “I was living on the sixth floor and there was a leak on the eighth floor that was reported several times but was not fixed. As a result of the leak, the water got into the electrical boards, where the fuses for several apartments were. That led to a fire and as a result of that they had to turn off the water. So there was no electricity and no water.”

Maintenance workers who came to fix the problem found that it was not possible to just shut off the water for a few flats. Instead water had to be cut off to around 70 flats, she said. Without water or electricity, Ms Figueiredo found herself being decanted into a hotel in Morden.

She decided that it would be best for her daughter to stay with a friend temporarily and it was two weeks before they were moved back into a different flat on the estate. Her new flat has problems with mould, but that’s a common issue, she explained.

“I had to clean the mould in the bedroom myself over Christmas because I couldn’t let it stay like that and I can’t wait for them to do something about it.”

Milford towers has had problems with mould in flats. Pictures from a Lewisham council maintained flat on the fifth floor.

When asked if mould had affected her or her child’s breathing, she said it was a constant issue.

“My child had to be on a course of antibiotics in December and January for respiratory issues. I constantly have some sort of allergy symptoms. It’s always hard to say 100 per cent that it is related with this but it definitely contributes to worsening our health symptoms.”

In another Nottinghill Genesis flat on the fifth floor, a young family showed The Independent how the sink in their bathroom had a long crack running through it that they said had not been fixed for some five years. Black mould was starting to grow in the corner of the shower and, when they flushed the toilet, water came out the bottom.

“It smells really bad,” Jose Antonio said. “We have been in this flat for six years and the sink has been broken for five. We complain to the housing manager about the problems but they have not been fixed. The water that comes out from under the toilet smells bad.”

Milford Towers resident Kellie McKone speaking at a protest outside of Lewisham council

One flat has been left burnt out inside the estate.

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