Tens of thousands of homes ‘safe’, says Michael Gove

Housing and communities secretary Michael Gove has said “at least” tens of thousands of homes are at risk as he announces new measures to punish housing providers who fail tenants.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Thursday morning, he said: “I’m afraid there are tens of thousands of properties that are not in the condition they should be.”

When the tens of thousands were correct, he said, “Yes, at least.

“We know there are a significant number of properties – some built in the 60s and 70s and in poor condition, but some poorly maintained – that just need to be properly repaired and properly maintained.”

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Housing providers who are failing tenants will face funding cuts, Gove announced yesterday. This comes after 2-year-old Awaab Ishaq died of breathing difficulties due to mold in his apartment.

A housing association that failed to tackle mold in Awaab Ishak’s home is set to lose £1m of government funding. Rochdale Boroughwide housing association is now being denied new ‘affordable homes scheme’ funding until it can prove it is a responsible landlord.

Gove said he did not think the government would meet its target of 300,000 new homes this year as he insisted the figure “remains our ambition” amid the Tory row over housebuilding.

Downing Street insisted it was sticking to its 2019 manifesto commitment but said it would be missed, blaming the coronavirus pandemic.

Gove told Times Radio: “We want to build up to 300,000 a year, that remains our ambition. But again, one of the challenges we are facing right now is that inflation means the price of building materials is going up.

It comes as Rishi Sunak faces a backlash from Conservative MPs over his target to build 300,000 homes a year. About 50 of its MPs signed an amendment that would have changed the flagship bill.

The change would have banned councils from considering centrally set house building targets when deciding planning applications.

But the voting decision created problems for Sunak. Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke said the party’s vote could collapse if the government failed to help people get on the housing ladder amid the building frenzy.

Mr Clarke, a former level secretary, said: “If you want to see the Conservative future when we’re not building houses, look at London.

“Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least partly because if you can’t buy, let alone rent, you can’t claim popular Conservatism.

“The front end, why can we win in areas like Teesside? This is at least partly because if you are a nurse or teacher you can still afford a decent family home. It’s not rocket science, it’s economics and politics 101.”