Gove warns tens of thousands of homes unsafe in wake of Awaab Ishak’s death

The Housing Secretary stripped the association that rented the mould-ridden flat of £1 million of funding.

Awaab Ishak
Awaab Ishak

At least tens of thousands of homes are unsafe because of damp and mould, the Housing Secretary said as he vowed to block funding for failing associations.

Michael Gove said he will hold talks on Thursday with the housing association that owned the flat where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould.

He blocked the £1 million in funding Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) was due to receive to build new homes, as part of a wider crackdown on poor standards.

Awaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a one-bedroom housing association flat in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Housing Secretary
Housing Secretary Michael Gove has vowed action to improve standards (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

His parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, repeatedly complained about the mould.

Mr Gove is heading to Rochdale for talks with the association after he blocked the affordable homes programme funding until it proves it is a responsible landlord.

He said “at least” tens of thousands of homes are unsafe to inhabit as he threatened to strip other landlords of the funding unless construction has already started.

“I fear it’s the case that there are tens of thousands of properties that are not in the state that they should be,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Asked if tens of thousands is correct, he said: “Yes, at least.

“We know there are a significant number of properties, some of which were built in the ’60s and ’70s and are in poor conditions, but some of which have been poorly maintained that simply need to be properly repaired and properly maintained.”

Gareth Swarbrick was removed as RBH’s chief executive following the highly-critical inquest into Awaab’s death.

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast: “I’m going to Rochdale later today in order to talk to them and talk to others about the situation there. But my view at the moment is this organisation does not deserve to get this additional funding.”

Asked if the organisation should still be operating at all, he said: “If the penny has dropped, if the organisation is ready to learn appropriate lessons to improve and there are signs they fully appreciate the need to improve, we will work with them, and indeed with Rochdale Council, in order to make improvements.”

The Housing Secretary awarded a share of a £14 million pot for seven areas with high numbers of poor, privately rented homes to crack down on rogue landlords, including Greater Manchester, Leeds and Cornwall.

Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that protections for private renters will be in his much-delayed Renters’ Reform Bill coming “in the next calendar year”.

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