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1.2m people in England live in unsafe social homes, LBC reveals, as coroner says toddler's death must be wake-up call

15 November 2022, 19:01

Awaab Ishak died of a severe respiratory condition that was caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home
Awaab Ishak died of a severe respiratory condition that was caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home. Picture: Family handout

By Ben Kentish

More than a million people in England are living in social homes that do not meet basic health and safety standards, LBC analysis following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak has revealed.

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The shocking figures reveal that 1.2 million people – equating to more than one in eight households living in social housing - are dealing with health risks such as damp, pests, asbestos and overcrowding.

Of the 4 million households living in social homes in England, 517,000 households are in properties that do not meet the Decent Homes Standard, which covers basic health and safety requirements that housing providers must meet. 

200,000 social homes – housing an estimated 460,000 people - are classed as containing a “category 1 hazard”, which includes potentially fatal risks such as exposed wiring, dangerous boilers, vermin infestations and leaking roofs.

198,000 social homes – or around 455,000 people – have a problem with damp.

Read more: 'This wouldn’t have happened if we were British': Parents of boy, 2, killed by mould slam 'racist' landlord

1.2 million people in England live in unsafe social homes
1.2 million people in England live in unsafe social homes. Picture: Family handout

On Tuesday, a coroner ruled that two-year-old Awaab died from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom housing association flat in Rochdale that he shared with his parents. 

Senior coroner Joanne Kearsley said the “tragic” death should act as a “defining moment for the housing sector”.

LBC’s analysis reveals the true scale of the crisis in social housing, with more than a million households, like Awaab’s, living in homes that are not fit for purpose. 

Of the social homes in England that are rented from local councils, 14% are classed as non-decent, while the figure for properties provided by housing associations is 12%.

Despite the stark findings, social housing is in better condition in general than properties being rented out privately, of which more than one in five are classed as non-decent.

Awaab Ishak died just a few days after his second birthday
Awaab Ishak died just a few days after his second birthday. Picture: Family handout

The Decent Homes Standard was introduced in 2004 in an attempt to improve the quality of social homes.

Since then, the proportion of non-decent social homes has fallen - from 27% in 2008 - but has barely decreased in the last decade.

The government is currently consulting on whether to extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector.

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