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Torry Raac tenant: ‘My garden keeps me going… When I saw new flat being offered I burst into tears’

Council tenant Erica Mitchell was left in "floods of tears" after the local authority offered her an alternative property in Kincorth.

Aberdeen City Council tenant Erica Mitchell
Aberdeen City Council tenant Erica Mitchell. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

Erica Mitchell flew the nest and moved into her first home in Torry back in 2012 – but now she is now facing a heartbreaking move due to the Raac crisis.

For the Dons fan, the move from her parents’ home in Kemnay to the Granite City gave her the chance to gain her independence.

“I have been able to go to my football and I’m a half-hour walk into town on a nice day,” she smiled.

“That’s what I like about living here, and being able to sit out in my garden.”

But now she, along with hundreds of other council tenants, are waiting to be moved out of their Raac-affected homes.

Council tenant left ‘in floods of tears’

Erica was recently given her first offer of alternative accommodation and hoped it would be the answer she was looking for.

She had asked for something similar to what she has at the moment – a ground floor flat with a wee bit of garden space and somewhere to hang out her washing.

But Aberdeen City Council suggested a property in Kincorth that she deemed far from ideal, leaving Erica “disappointed”.

Scaffolding has been put in place and workers can be seen at properties on Balnagask Road. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

She explained: “When I got the phone call, I was told it was a ground floor flat.

“I took a drive over to have a look outside and it was nothing like what I have here, I was in floods of tears.

“They are just not listening to us.”

Erica added: “I suffer with mental health issues and am currently out of work, If I don’t feel like going out for a walk my garden keeps me going.”

‘The whole thing is just a mess’

Erica told us that the ongoing situation has caused her nothing but stress and says her mental health is at an “all time low”.

“We don’t know if we are coming or going, we can’t get a straight answer from the council.

“They are not giving us the truth, we just want a bit of clarity and know exactly what we are doing.”

Aberdeen City Council tenant Erica Mitchell outside her Torry home. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

However, Erica is trying to find some relief throughout the process.

She explained: “I’ve been joking to some of my friends that I could write a book about this, I’d be up to chapter 50 by now.

“It’s unbelievable, the whole thing is just a mess.”

Torry residents rally together

But there has been one overwhelming positive that has come out of the upheaval.

Erica told us that since the Raac situation started, there has been a “good togetherness” in Balnagask.

Residents in Torry have been helping each other through the ongoing Raac situation. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

She also admitted that she has made friends with people she didn’t know prior to the crisis.

“People I’ve met have been really friendly and helpful, and we are all giving each other support,” Erica added.

“It will be a shame for all of this to go.”

‘I will fight until I get what I want’

Meanwhile Paula Fraser is still waiting for her first offer but is adamant she is staying put.

The tenant has lived in her current home for the last 23 years, but has lived in Torry her whole life.

“I will fight until I get what I want, I told them I’d still be there after the homeowners left,” Paula said.

Raac has been found in properties on Balnagask Road. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

While Paula said she wouldn’t mind moving temporarily, she wanted to eventually return to her home of more than two decades.

“I’ve just put in new flooring, doors, skirtings and a banister – it’s all coming with me.

“We thought these houses would be our last, I said to them I wouldn’t be moving out of here unless I’m in a box.”

But Paula hopes everyone affected by the ongoing crisis can power through after she admitted some tenants were feeling suicidal about the situation.

“Some of the people I’ve spoken to are just not coping at all,” she said.

Lack of support for homeowners

One Torry homeowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has lived in his Balnagask property for just two years and had planned for it to be his forever home.

The man lives on his own and worked three jobs to save up for the deposit.

In a further blow, the resident recently installed a new kitchen and bathroom in their property.

They told The Press and Journal that they first heard about the Raac issue while watching the news.

Evening Express coverage of Raac. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

“While it was on, the council was scuttling around putting letters through people’s doors,” they said.

However, they claim that homeowners have not received much help from the local authority since.

“They have said the houses are all unsafe for council tenants so they need to be moved out fast, but you own your own house so you have to sort yourselves out.

“We got a six page letter sent out a couple of weeks ago basically saying nothing.”

‘If they are going, I’m going as well’

The homeowner was particularly angry that Raac had not been flagged up in previous years.

“These 200-odd houses that are affected have been bought and sold, some of them a few times, so they have all been surveyed and this has never been brought up.”

But the Balnagask resident has accepted his fate, adding: “I’m in-between two council houses so if they are going, I’m going as well.”

Aberdeen City Council housing convener Miranda Radley. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Aberdeen housing chief Miranda Radley said the council would need to wait for the results of its options appraisal before it could address private owners and tenants.

But the Torry homeowner believes some support from the local authority would be better than nothing at all.

“We fully understand that people in the council properties don’t want to move but at the end of the day, it’s happening.

“They are all getting £1,500 to move but we aren’t getting a pound to pay for paracetamol for the headaches.”

What options are available for private homeowners?

This resident suggests compulsory purchase orders would have to be made, but how much would each owner get?

A close-up shot of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, better known as RAAC

“I’ve spoken to my solicitor who said they would have to give us market value as if this Raac didn’t exist.

“If the council gave me a decent price for my house I’d say ‘thanks I’m off’.

“But the fact is we are being told nothing, they haven’t even had the guts to meet us and actually say ‘This is what’s happening’.

“Everyone is just done.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to engage with all council tenants, owners and private tenants who have been affected by Raac.

“Private home owners can contact us to discuss their personal circumstances and housing options.”

The local authority is also encouraging anyone who is concerned about Raac to read its frequently asked questions page online.

Read more on the crisis here, as we put residents’ questions to the council’s housing chief.