'I wasn't living, I was existing' - Man who needed therapy reveals social housing nightmare
- Credit: Google Maps/Matt Storey
A man who endured three tumultuous years of "constant noise and anti-social behaviour" has shared his social housing "nightmare", that he says left him seeking therapy.
Matt Storey remembers the day - May 11, 2018 - he picked up the keys to his first home at 9 Macrae Close, Stevenage.
After waiting on the social housing list for more than a decade, he was beaming from ear to ear when he heard his application had finally been accepted, and he would be moving into his first place.
"It was one of the best days of my life," Matt explains.
"My parents helped me move all my stuff in. We decorated the rooms together, made it into a home - I was chuffed to bits with it."
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Matt had waited on Stevenage's social housing list for more than 15 years, claiming he felt he was pushed to the bottom of the priority list as a single, young household.
Having grown up in Stevenage, and working in Arlesey, he knew he wanted to stay local but admits those years of waiting were a real challenge.
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When Matt was preparing to move into Macrae Close, a set of social housing properties run by the Guinness Partnership, he was like a child in a sweet shop.
But Matt's dream would turn into a nightmare, after he clashed with noisy neighbours for three years.
"It was just three years of constant noise and anti-social behaviour. It was a nightmare.
"I wasn't living, I was just existing - waking up, going to work, dreading coming home. I would look for any excuse to stay away from my own house for as long as possible.
"Those years changed me."
Life got progressively worse for Matt when the tenant living above him - Niky Comas - moved in two years ago.
"He would play loud, bass music constantly from about 7am to 8 or 9pm. We all suffered after he moved in."
Letters were sent out to all tenants in December 2019 reminding them to be respectful of others, and warning them that The Guinness Partnership has "zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour."
But the noise didn't stop, and the situation escalated. The music got louder, the stomping got worse and Matt even says he found spit on his front door.
Mr Comas was served with a noise abatement notice - a warning to stop playing loud music - by Stevenage Borough Council in April 2020.
At this time, Matt was tasked with recording the noise levels in his property by SBC's environmental health teams, which he did.
Comas ignored the warnings, and was fined more than £2,700 and had his music equipment confiscated by Environmental Health last July. His eviction is currently being processed in the courts.
Matt moved in with his girlfriend to escape the "hell" he was enduring at Macrae Close, and handed in his keys for good earlier this year. He says he was offered no financial support by Guinness.
He says the mental scars from his time at Macrae Close are still present, and he has had to seek counselling and therapy as a result.
He formally moved out of the property on February 28, claiming he was forced to do so, but says the situation could have been avoided if he had more support from the Guinness Partnership.
Matt will also now have to apply to be put back on the social housing register - and he says he is dreading another decade of waiting.
The Partnership's tagline is: "We're here to help improve people's lives" - which made Matt laugh.
"That's a joke. They did nothing for me and I felt let down."
In response, a spokesman for the Guinness Partnership said: “We do not tolerate anti-social behaviour in any of our properties. Our Customer Liaison Officer supported Mr Storey, who was impacted by noise nuisance.
“The Environmental Health Team at Stevenage Borough Council executed a warrant under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in July 2020 and seized the equipment that was causing the noise nuisance.
"We have commenced proceedings to evict the perpetrator of the noise nuisance and await the outcome of the County Court’s review, which was due on March, 8 2021.
“We have increased the support provided to our residents during the pandemic – this includes financial and wellbeing assistance, which we deliver directly and in conjunction with partners.
“We are sorry that Mr Storey felt he had to leave his home due to the actions of his neighbour. We offered to move Mr Storey to a different Guinness property, but this offer was declined."
Matt strongly refutes the suggestion that he was offered another property by Guinness.