MANY Winchester residents are suffering damp problems because they cannot afford their energy bills, a meeting heard.

Housing chiefs met at the Guildhall on Tuesday (Feb 4) and were told that despite setting aside £300,000 a year to tackle condensation in council homes, it remains a problem.

Housing officer Andrew Kingston said the council’s contractors had been “inundated” with damp when they carried out a recent survey. Mr Kingston said many tenants experience chronic condensation because they are not ventilating their homes properly.

“A lot of people cannot afford to have the heating on.

“You can insulate the house and put doubling glazing in, but then people become more obsessive about not letting the heat out.

“But there is a massive amount of moisture produced every day from normal living and you need to get rid of it, but for a lot of our tenants, energy costs are a very significant issue.”

The council has produced an educational DVD on how to keep flats ventilated and they are also providing extraction fans - though they are not always used.

“A number of people with chronic condensation say they turn the fan off because it’s running the electricity. Unfortunately, we cannot control the cost of energy,” Mr Kingston said.

The problem is of particular concern in flats at Winnall and Stanmore.

Cllr Jamie Scott said: “When you have given them the extractor fans, and you’ve given them the DVD, then what? We know full well that in Stanmore the houses do not have proper felt under the tiles. The problem is not always that residents are keeping their windows closed.”

Cllr Tony Coates, the city’s housing chief, said that most social housing in the city has gas heating and double glazing and that extraction fans will be fitted in all new council homes as standard.

Work to address the ventilation problems will continue over the next six years.