Night mode: Giant iPhone advert blocking out daylight to poverty-hit families in London apartment block

‘When your landlord fails to fix the leak in the ceiling it’s bad enough. When they literally sell the daylight coming through your window to Apple, you know the system is against you’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Friday 15 November 2019 19:09
Comments
Giant iPhone advert blocking out daylight to poverty-hit families in London apartment block

Poverty-hit families in east London are being deprived of natural light and left feeling “abandoned and isolated” after a huge mobile phone advertisement was plastered across their homes.

As many as 19 households are currently living in poorly maintained flats above a restaurant in Dalston which has been covered by a 120sqm “mega ad” promoting the newest iPhone – obscuring a number of the windows.

The Independent spoke with residents who were placed there temporarily after reporting as homeless, and have now found themselves stuck in the squalid and darkened conditions.

Campaigners said the fact that adverts by multinational companies were hiding the “brutal reality” of urban poverty in a fast-gentrifying area was a “shocking indictment” of inequality in the 21st century.

Sevineh Nazif, 42, who lives in one of the flats with her disabled husband after they were placed there by their local council three years ago, said she had felt “blocked out of everything” since the advertising hoarding was first put up around three years ago.

Ms Nazif says the mega ad ‘just appeared’ (May Bulman)

“There’s no sunlight, no view out of the window. When the windows are closed I can’t breathe, I feel claustrophobic. We can never get light in here. We never see the sun, it feels like we’re blocked out from everything. We’ve been abandoned,” she said.

The Bulgarian national, who became homeless with her Cypriot husband five years ago after he fell ill and had to quit his job as a butcher, said they were not told the mega ad was going up and it “just appeared”.

She said they had tried to cut the material outside their window, but were reprimanded by the landlord and warned not to do so again.

“The landlord said the company had the right to put what they want up there. They’re not bothered. As long as they’re getting money for the advert they don’t care,” said Ms Nazif, who has lived in Britain for 20 years.

Ms Nazif says the problem is exacerbated by the poor living conditions

Gesturing at damp patches and cracks on the ceiling and walls, she said being deprived of natural light was exacerbating an already difficult situation.

“There’s water dripping down the walls. The wood flooring has come up. People are saying they’re going to come and no one comes. The council never comes. It came once and then never again,” she added.

Another resident, Ahmed Mehjoob, whose window is also covered by the large advertisement, said he felt the landlord and the local authorities “did not care” about him and his neighbours.

“They just came and put it up. They said this is what we are doing, if you don’t like it you can leave the building. They are getting money from these people. They don’t care about us,” said the 55-year-old, whose rent costs £257 per week in housing benefit.

One bedroom is left darkened by the phone advert

“One day, I tried to cut it with a knife. I made a hole. They called me and said don’t do this again because they are renting to a company. The advertising company called the landlord and complained.

“For us, there is no light, no sun, it is blocking us from the outside. It makes you isolated.”

Alex Armitage, Green Party candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said: “This is a shocking indictment of how people are treated in 21st-century Dalston. Adverts by multinational companies selling glamorous products are hiding the brutal reality of urban poverty.

“The advertising hoarding, which blocks direct light to the accommodation, is a gross insult not just to residents but to our entire community.

The council is ‘looking into what action it can take’ (May Bulman)

“When your landlord fails to fix the leak in the ceiling it's bad enough. When they literally sell the daylight coming through your window to Apple, you know the system is against you.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson said they were aware of the advert and were “looking at what enforcement action we can take against the building’s owners to have it removed”.

They added: “We have not used this property for homeless families since 2015, before the adverts were installed."

The company that owns the advertising space, Blow Up Media, declined to comment. The Independent could not reach the owner of the building.

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