Michael Gove requires councils to review housing conditions for tenants

Image above: Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove

Levelling Up Secretary announces urgent review into housing sector

The Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has written to housing providers requiring them to provide an urgent review into the housing conditions for private and social tenants.

Gove, who is also Secretary of State for Housing and Communities, warned housing providers they must raise the bar dramatically on standards and take urgent action when people complain about damp and mould.

Responding to the findings of a panel set up by the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing in June, he said:

“We have all been horrified by several recent reports of dangerously poor standards in social housing and the utterly devastating impact it has had, including the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.

“This report highlights the importance of landlords working with tenants, putting their voices and needs first. It also underpins the need for our Social Housing Bill, which will strengthen the rights of tenants, improve the regulation of social housing and ensure better quality, safer homes.”

The report found the management of communication and complaints topped the list of concerns from those consulted, alongside issues with the maintenance and repairs of homes.

Housing crisis in the UK is “worse than ever”, says Hounslow Council

Image: Cllr Sue Sampson

Cllr Sue Sampson, Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness for LB Hounslow, welcomed Michael Gove’s announcement, saying::

“The UK housing crisis is worse than ever, we have an acute shortage of homes, waiting lists are rapidly growing and sadly an unacceptable number of people living in poor-quality housing conditions as shown by the tragic case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale.

“It’s vital that the mistakes made in Rochdale are not repeated in our borough. In Hounslow, we want to help ensure every resident has a place to live and call their home – one that is in good condition, safe and secure.

“We support the urgent review, which has been directed by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities regarding damp and mould conditions, and practices for private and social tenants across the country.”

The Government’s directive is specific in its information requests and sets short deadlines for responses, by end of January.

Cllr Sampson said LB Hounslow was collaborating with the government, London councils and housing associations to thoroughly review the conditions and enforcement practices across the borough’s social housing stock, housing associations properties, private rented accommodation secured by the Council, and wider private-rented accommodation.

Criticisms of Hounslow’s housing standards raised by Cllr Joanna Biddolph

Image: Cllr Joanna Biddolph 

Chiswick Cllr Joanna Biddolph, who is the opposition spokesperson on houssing in LB Hounslow, issued her own press statement in response to Clle Sampson’s, in which she said she had called an emergency meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee to discuss the housing department’s performance.

“Cllr Sampson suggests we should appreciate the borough’s performance in maintaining standards but, as she continues to refuse to meet me and other councillors, we still don’t know what, if anything, she and her department are actually doing to improve local housing” she said.

“Housing department officers are immensely dedicated and hard-working, taking up issues of concern speedily and effectively. Unfortunately, councillors do receive complaints about performance and standards in Hounslow’s housing as well as in housing associations.”

“Now is not the right time for media sensationalism” says Cllr Sampson

Anticipating comment from Cllr Biddolph, Cllr Sampson she accused her of using the Government’s housing review as an opportunity for “media sensationalism.”

“It is pleasing to see the interest being paid to this issue by the opposition housing spokesperson, Councillor Biddolph. I am sure that she will appreciate the borough’s performance in maintaining the standards and safety of our properties, and the strides we have taken to influence housing associations and their government-appointed regulator, and private landlords.

“In the light of the Secretary of State’s directive, I am sure that she will also agree that now is not the right time for media sensationalism, rather it is for focusing on identifying new actions and powers that may be needed for further improvements.

“We have set up a Project Group to co-ordinate the preparation of our submission to the Secretary of State by 27 January 2023. We are keen to develop alternative and proactive arrangements that also enable effective enforcement.

“Our detailed submission will therefore explain the condition of rented accommodation in the borough. It will also call for a review of our powers and greater regulation of private-rented accommodation.

“We look forward to making real changes that assist us in raising the standards of social housing and empower local authorities to improve conditions in private-rented accommodation.”

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