A FAMILY of eight living in a two-bedroom council flat want to be moved from their mouldy and cramped home into one more suitable for their needs.

Darren Smith and his partner Louise Pettett, of Storrington Close, Hangleton, have been trying to force through a move with Brighton and Hove City Council and fear they may have to move to another part of the city.

The couple are sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room with their one-year-old baby in a cot next to them, while four children aged from four to 11 share a bedroom and the eldest has her own room.

They say the mould and damp has led to mental and physical health issues for the entire family.

Mr Smith, a lorry driver who works six days a week, said: “You can’t do normal family things because there is no space, and none of us get any privacy.

“It is unlivable. The mould means the young kids are always ill, but we can’t leave the windows open because they sleep under them and it would be too cold for them during the day and night.”

The council’s housing policy states that for a family of eight, a four-bedroom house would be the appropriate size.

Mr Smith, 42, also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and he said the mould has made his breathing problems worse.

He also feels that his children cannot live a normal life, saying: “They have friends come round every now and then, but not often.

“Just so one of them can have a friend round we have to wait until another one of them goes out. It’s ridiculous.”

Miss Pettett has lived in the flat for 15 years and has fallen out of love with her family home.

She said: “It’s horrible – I hate it. It makes me feel depressed living here now.

“I know how lucky we are just to have a roof over our heads, but we don’t deserve this. Darren works hard and pays his way like everyone else.

“We get grief off of people for the kids playing outside and it isn’t fair on them. Sometimes people tell them off without even speaking to us.”

The 38-year-old suffers with depression and claustrophobia, and feels she needs to stay in Hangleton. Her support network is in the area, which is why they do not want to leave Hangleton, as well as their children going to nearby schools.

Her eldest child Charleigh, 15, goes to Blatchington Mill high school.

Charleigh said: “Living in such a small space makes my mood low all the time and I always feel stressed when I’m at home.

“It is starting to affect my school life now as well.”

In response to what the family told The Argus, a council spokeswoman said: “The council has very few four and five bedroom properties which rarely become available.

“Tenants need to be as flexible as possible to maximise their chances.

“If the situation is so overcrowded, or conditions so bad that the family are effectively homeless, then they are offered help in finding alternative private rented accommodation. This gives families more choice over the area they live in. Unfortunately not all households want this type of assistance.”


SADLY the level of overcrowding experienced by the family of Darren Smith and Louise Pettett is not unusual in the city.

Councillor Tracey Hill, lead member for the private rented sector, said she came across two instances of a family of six living in a two-bed house and one occasion of five living in a one bedroom house during routine visits around the Hollingdean estate.

Relocating families that have outgrown their surroundings is no easy matter with very few large family houses on the council housing register.

The city has one of the highest proportions of overcrowded households, with at least one less bedroom than required, affecting one in 14 households.

In a move to free up larger houses, the council offers an incentive scheme for families to downsize from larger family homes they no longer need. Tenants can receive up to £2,500 for downsizing.

Cllr Hill said: “There is a shortage of those types of larger family homes. We don’t need hundreds of them but we do need a few more. Quite often people will say ‘why hasn’t the council moved us?’ but we’re not able to do that if no suitable houses are available.”

Families can suffer from varying levels of overcrowding which impacts the speed with which they can be rehoused. Those suffering from severe overcrowding, lacking two or more separate bedrooms, will be placed on Band B while in more extreme cases where families are judged to be statutorily overcrowded, they can be bumped up to Band A.

But while being on Band A improves chances, placing residents among the top two per cent, it is no guarantee of a quick move in a city where thousands are waiting to be housed.

The alternative of the private sector though is out of reach for most.

Cllr Hill said: “They are phenomenally expensive in the private sector.”

In a bid to tackle the shortage of larger family homes, the council’s housing committee agreed to build six four-bed homes in Lynchet Close but not before an almighty debate over build costs and rents.

Eventually opposition councillors were successful in getting the council to drop initial rent proposals of £1,400 per month to Living Wage levels.