‘Far too many’ UK homes ‘don’t meet decent standard’ – former housing secretary

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said “far too many” homes in the UK “don’t meet a decent standard”, following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak caused by mould in his family flat.

Mr Jenrick, who served as Housing Secretary from July 2019 to September 2021 and is now immigration minister, also said that many housing associations have become “too large” with executive pay “off the charts”.

Awaab died from a respiratory condition caused by mould in December 2020, the same year in which Gareth Swarbrick, former chief executive of his flat’s owner, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), was paid £170,000.

Mr Swarbrick was removed from his position on Saturday after refusing to resign.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Jenrick said that in both social housing and private sector rentals “there are unfortunately far too many properties in this country that don’t meet a decent standard”.

“We’ve done a number of things in recent years to try to tackle that,” Mr Jenrick said.

“Hopefully, the most important one will be creating a new regulator for social housing.

“Housing associations, I think, in some cases have moved away from their charitable and social purposes, and have become too large, not sufficiently focused on the interests and needs of the resident.

“And, as you say, some of the executive pay is off the charts, that needs to change.”

Awaab Ishak inquest
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died in December 2020 (Family handout/PA)

Mr Jenrick added that “evidence suggests” the private rental sector has on average even “lower standards than the social rented sector”.

This comes after the current Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, wrote to every English council leader and social housing provider as he warned that deaths like that of Awaab must “never be allowed to happen again”.

Addressing the latter, he said that the country needed to “raise the bar dramatically” on the quality of social housing and “empower tenants” to ensure “their voices are truly heard”.