The government will withdraw new funding to a housing body responsible for a property where a two-year-old boy died after prolonged exposure to mould.
Awaab Ishak died in December 2020 of a respiratory illness caused by mold in the one-bedroom housing association flat where he lived with his parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, in Rochdale, Greater Manchester .
The government said on Thursday that Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), which owned the flat, would not receive its planned £1million Affordable Housing Program (AHP) funding or receive new AHP contracts for new homes , until social affairs regulator Housing has completed its investigation and RBH can prove it is a responsible landlord.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement: ‘RBH has let its tenants down so it won’t get a penny more of taxpayers’ money for new housing until it pulls itself together and do the good of the tenants.
“Let this be a warning to other housing providers who are ignoring complaints and failing in their obligations to tenants. We will not hesitate to act.
“Everyone deserves the right to live in safe and decent housing and this government will always act to protect tenants.”
The government will continue to closely monitor accommodation standards for RBH rentals, working with the regulator and ombudsman, to ensure that tenants have appropriate accommodation, the statement added.
As part of a wider crackdown on poor standards, Mr Gove will block any housing provider that breaches the regulator’s consumption standards from new funding AHP until it makes improvements.
It will also consider depriving vendors of existing AHP funding unless construction has already begun on the site, its statement added.
On Saturday, Gareth Swarbrick was removed from his role as RBH chief executive.
Awaab’s parents, originally from Sudan, had repeatedly complained about mould. They also believed their treatment was shaped by the fact that they were not from the UK.
In a statement on Tuesday, RBH said: “We made assumptions about the lifestyle and we accept that we were wrong.
“We will implement additional training throughout the organization.
“We abhor racism in all its forms and we know we have a responsibility to all of our communities.”
The housing association posted the update on Twitter a week after a coroner called Awaab’s inquest a ‘watershed moment’ and said it would ‘significantly speed up’ home inspections for moisture and mildew.
It read: “We want to start by saying again how sorry we are for the loss of Awaab.
“We know our words will not take away the pain felt by his family, nor immediately heal the pain and strength of feelings that are rightly felt in Rochdale and across the country.
“Our entire organization of caring and passionate colleagues is completely focused on making things better for our customers, the people of Rochdale and the wider community and industry.
“However, we know we were wrong.”
RBH said its priorities include appointing an experienced interim chief executive as soon as possible, meeting with key stakeholders and sharing what it has learned about the health impact of humidity, condensation and mold with the social housing sector.
Mr Swarbrick, who earned £170,000 in the year Awaab died, initially refused to quit his job at RBH.
He was removed from office by the board over the weekend, a day after Rochdale City Council demanded that the housing stock be returned to the local authority.
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