Elara Kyffin Shurety

Thesis Title: Contesting dispossession by damp: Life experiences and media representations in London Housing Association estates

Abstract: In recent years, household damp and mould have come to dominate housing discourses. Those enduring dampness often face severe and life-limiting health risks – treating those whose health has been impacted by poor housing conditions is estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 billion annually (Garret et al, 2021). These risks are far from abstract: in November 2022, Senior Coroner Joanne Kearsley ruled that the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020 was caused by prolonged exposure to mould and damp in Rochdale Boroughwide Housing provided home.

The spotlight on damp and mould has largely been catalysed by ITV News’ 2021 Surviving Squalor, which exposed the shocking conditions endured by many social housing tenants. Subsequent media coverage brought into focus a connection between damp conditions and regeneration. This was particularly apparent in Housing Association (HA) stock, typified through the case of Eastfields Estate, Merton. Responding to public backlash, the Chair of the G15 group of HAs rationalised damp conditions in a regeneration context as necessary to ‘encourage’ tenants to ‘move on’ (Simpson, 2021). Nearly a year after ITV’s broadcast, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee report explicitly identified neglect of sites associated with regeneration as a key cause of poor conditions (20 July 2022, HC 2022-07 18: para 20). This research proposes a dual examination of the phenomena of dampness in HA estates in London – that is, both into the material conditions in damp housing, and the media representation of those conditions – to critically question how damp housing conditions dispossess the urban poor. Using a qualitative approach and through a focus on the category of “evidence”, this research aims to provide new insights into household damp in HA stock undergoing regeneration, and a critical assessment of the relationship media coverage has to tenants’ experiences of (contesting) these conditions.

First Supervisor: Professor Katherine Brickell and Professor Phil Hubbard

Publications: Shurety, E. 2021. ‘Securing the city, making the city: Property guardianship and dispersed policing in urban space.’ Radical Housing Journal 3, no. 2: 27-45. https://radicalhousingjournal.org/2021/securing-the-city-making-the-city/

Social media:https://www.linkedin.com/in/elara-shurety-0a5277a3/ https://twitter.com/elaraks