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Tens of thousands of homes are ‘unsafe’, says Michael Gove

  • Politics

By staff

Levelling up, housing and communities secretary Michael Gove said “at least” tens of thousands of homes are unsafe, as he announced new measures to punish housing providers who fail tenants.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Thursday morning, he said: “I fear it’s the case that there are tens of thousands of properties that are not in the state that they should be.”

Pressed if the tens of thousands figure was 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.”

Gove announced yesterday that housing providers who fail tenants will face funding cuts. This follows the death of Awaab Ishak, who was 2 years old when he died from breathing problems due to the mould in his flat.

The housing association that failed to treat mould in Awaab Ishak’s home will be stripped of £1m government funding. Rochdale Boroughwide housing association is now barred from new “affordable homes program” funding until it can prove to be a responsible landlord.

Gove also said the Government does not think it will hit its target of building 300,000 new homes this year as he insisted the figure “remains our ambition” amid a Tory row over housebuilding.

Downing Street insisted it stands by the 2019 manifesto commitment but said it would be missed, blaming the coronavirus pandemic.

Gove told Times Radio: “We want to build as many as 300,000 a year, that remains our ambition. But again, one of the difficulties that we face at the moment is that inflation has meant that the cost of building materials has risen.

This comes as Rishi Sunak faced a rebellion from Conservative MPs over the 300,000 homes per year building target. Nearly 50 of his MPs had signed an amendment which would change the flagship levelling up bill. 

The amendment would have banned councils from taking centrally set housebuilding targets into account when deciding on planning applications.

But the decision to pull the vote also caused problems for Sunak. Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke said the party’s vote could collapse if the Government does not help people onto the housing ladder with a building spree.

Mr Clarke, a former levelling up secretary, said: “If you want to see what the future of the Conservatives is when we don’t build homes, look at London.

“Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least in part because you can’t make the case for popular Conservatism if you can’t afford to buy, or even rent.

“The flip side, why can we win in areas like Teesside? It’s at least in part because if you are a nurse or a teacher, you can still afford a proper family home. This isn’t rocket science – it’s economics and politics 101.”