'Check Lancashire's social housing to ensure it's safe', county councillor demands
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That is the call from a senior Lancashire county councillor who wants the authority to demand that registered housing providers carry out urgent checks – and hand over the results – in order to reassure residents that the homes in which they are living are safe.
Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali said that he hopes social landlords are already undertaking thorough assessments of their housing stock in the wake of the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak.
The toddler died almost two years ago as a result of what a coroner concluded last month was “a severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment”.
Joanne Kearsley also found that no action had been taken by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, which managed the dwelling, to treat and prevent the problem.
County Cllr Ali told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that he would like to believe that similar threats were not lurking in Lancashire’s socially rented homes, but fears the “probability” that they will be.
“We need an open and transparent audit of all properties which are run by social housing providers across Lancashire – and a report which tells us how many properties are sub-standard and have work being carried out on them or what the programme is [for such repairs].
“There could be plenty of people out there living in social housing who have been complaining for months about the state of their properties and probably not being listened to.
“Now we’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and damp grows more in cold properties – so for me, this is a public health emergency and it needs to be responded to,” County Cllr Ali said.
He has asked County Hall chief executive Angie Ridgwell to write to all social housing providers operating in Lancashire to request that they conduct a review of their properties and report back within four weeks.
However, the LDRS understands that district authorities have been asked by the government to undertake a review of the quality of social housing in their areas – and that the county council will await the outcome of that process, which is likely to conclude early in the new year, but with initial findings coming as soon as next week.
While housing responsibilities rest with district councils, County Cllr Ali says that the public health implications of poor living conditions mean that the matter should also be of concern to County Hall.
He stressed that the housing audit he is demanding would not be about the minor defects that may annoy tenants, but issues that will “undermine or damage health”.
“The Rochdale case involved a child, but there are a lot of elderly people with COPD, breathing problems and other health conditions – and if they are living in substandard properties with damp or mould or issues, then their health is going to be put at risk.
“Particularly with the cost of living crisis, people will also be hesitant about putting heating on because of the bills they will incur.”