Gove cuts housing association funding by £1m after Awaab Ishak’s death

Gove cuts housing association funding by £1m after Awaab Ishak’s death

Michael Gove, Britain’s housing secretary, has cut £1m of funding from a housing association in north-west England after it failed to act on a mold problem which contributed to the death of a toddler.

On Thursday, Gove announced he would withhold government funding from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, after an inquest found Awaab Ishak’s death in 2020 was the result of long-term exposure to mold in his home, owned by the housing association.

“RBH failed its tenants so it will not receive a penny of extra taxpayers’ money for new homes until they get their act together and do right by tenants,” Gove said.

The two-year-old’s death has shed light on the responsibility of private, non-profit housing associations.

Housing associations are responsible for the majority of the approximately 4 million social housing units in England. Their tenants often have low incomes or need extra support.

In 2010, the coalition government cut direct funding for social housing by 60 percent, and housing associations have since complained that they are trying to close a large gap in social housing with scarce resources.

Rhys Moore, a leader at the National Housing Federation which represents housing associations, said: “We understand the Secretary of State’s interest in ensuring that organizations receiving funding for new social housing also provide good quality housing and services to existing tenants.”

Last week, the sector was told in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement that it could increase rents by a maximum of 7 per cent, rather than in line with inflation, which is above 11 per cent.

RBH, which manages more than 12,000 homes in and around Rochdale, is being investigated by the housing regulator. Until it is signed as a responsible landlord, the housing association will be barred from government funding and contracts.

Earlier this month, Joanne Kearsley, coroner in the Ishak case, said RBH had not been “proactive”, after the inquest heard the toddler’s family had made repeated complaints about their home to the landlord before his death.

“How will a two-year-old child die in the UK in 2020 from exposure to mould?” she asked.

RBH, which initially suggested the mold problem was “lifestyle” related, has since apologised.

“We made assumptions about lifestyle and we accept that we were wrong,” the housing association said in a series of tweets posted Tuesday. “We will implement further training across the entire organization.”

Gove said he would not hesitate to defund other housing associations if they do not meet the regulator’s standards.

“Let this be a warning to other housing providers who ignore complaints and fail in their obligations to tenants. We will not hesitate to act, he said.

Gove has taken a hard line with housing developers and suppliers, introducing a new levy on housebuilders to cover the costs of repairing blocks caught up in the building crisis.

He also announced on Thursday £14 million in funding to help councils crack down on rogue landlords.

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