Michael Gove has admitted that “at least” tens of thousands of homes in the UK are unsafe to live in.
The levelling up secretary issued the warning after a two-year-old boy, Awaab Ishak, died due to prolonged exposure to mould at his home in Rochdale.
This morning the government stripped the housing organisation responsible for the property, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, of funding until it can prove it is a responsible landlord.
Gove told BBC Breakfast that as well as Rochdale Boroughwide Housing — whose chief executive has now resigned over the tragedy — there were “many other housing associations” that were “not doing right by their tenants”.
Asked how many people he thought were living in unsafe housing, Gove replied: “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, Gove 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’s admission comes as the government struggles to meet its target of building 300,000 new homes per year, as laid out in its 2019 election manifesto.
Earlier this week Rishi Sunak was forced to pull the government’s flagship levelling up bill after Tory MPs signalled they would revolt over the measures.
Around 50 Conservative backbenchers, including former Cabinet minsters, backed an amendment to the bill that would ban councils from taking centrally set housebuilding targets into account when deciding on planning applications.
In separate interviews this morning, Gove admitted that the government would not be able to hit its target and that it had in fact not been met whilst the Conservatives had been in power.
He 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.
“We all know that there’s quite a tight labour market at the moment in Britain and elsewhere. So we’re not going to be able I think this year to hit that number.”
Asked by LBC when the 300,000 target had last been met, Gove replied: “I don’t think it has been met under this government.”
Presenter Nick Ferrari confirmed that the last time the target was met was in 1977.
Gove said housing was seeing “significant improvements” until the war in Ukraine and the pandemic fuelled inflation and higher building costs.
“We will meet that target, but it is important that we continue to maintain an ambition to build more homes,” he said.