Housing Reaches Crisis Point

When will this government address the problems of damp and mould in housing, so starkly revealed by the coroner’s findings in the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishack?

I’m horrified at the condition of properties which constituents of mine, with young children, are being forced to live in. It reminds me of the BBC drama Cathy Come Home, a play which shocked a nation and resulted in the charities Crisis and Shelter being established and the 1969 Housing Act.

After 13 years of Tory government our housing situation is as bad today as it was in 1969. The rogue landlords, who exploit temporary and exempt accommodation, are every bit as wicked as the Rachmans of the 1960s. They’re on a get-rich-quick, gravy train, making money out of homeless and vulnerable people.

Last week I sat on the Committee Stage of a Bill designed to tackle some of the worst excesses of exempt accommodation, a problem I’ve been raising for several years. It’s aimed at those ‘mini hostels’ springing up all over Birmingham which destroy family homes and threaten local communities. It allows for licensing, a fit and proper test for landlords, and a power to restrict the concentration of such hostels in local communities. They’re all things I called for in my own Bill two years ago, which the government refused to back. In the intervening period things have got much worse.

Latest figures show 3.4m homes in England failed to meet the decent homes standard and about 164,000 rented dwellings are affected by damp. It’s worse in private rented homes, where more than 10% have damp and 23% fail to meet the decent homes standard.

Cathy Come Home forced action from the government of the day and last week a small number of MPs made a little progress, but there’s been no corresponding response from this government to Awaab Ishak’s death. Instead, our PM has abandoned the target of building 300,000 homes per year, making homeless people more dependent on temporary accommodation, while cynically switching resources from deprived areas, where housing issues are most acute, to well-heeled Tory shires.

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