A dozen complaints made about leaks, damp or mould in housing operated by Wigan Council
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The health impacts of poor-quality social housing have been in the spotlight after a coroner ruled that two year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould in his flat, which was maintained by a housing association in Rochdale.
The Housing Ombudsman investigates complaints made about social housing providers, such as housing associations, local authorities and housing co-operatives.
A freedom of information request to the ombudsman by RADAR revealed there were 12 complaints made about leaks, damp or mould in housing operated by Wigan Borough Council in the three years to March 2022.
The outcome of all of these complaints was unknown at the time of the request, meaning that the ombudsman may still be investigating them.
The figures cover social housing provided by the council, but do not include complaints logged against housing associations and other organisations operating in the area.
Across England, there were 5,838 complaints made about leaks, damp and mould in social housing between 2019-20 and 2021-22.
Of these, 3,915 were about properties managed by housing associations, and 1,861 for housing provided by, or on behalf of, local authorities.
Alex Diner, a senior researcher on housing at the New Economics Foundation, called it a "national disgrace" that millions of families across England are living in "dangerous" homes.
“The shocking death of Awaab Ishak shows the Government must accept responsibility and do much more to drive up standards in the social housing sector, to empower tenants, and to improve the rotten culture that still exists in those failing councils and housing associations,” he said.
There were also three complaints made about issues with heating and hot water in housing managed by Wigan Borough Council in the past three years.
Complaints may fall into multiple categories – so a single complaint could be about issues with both hot water and mould, for instance.
Nationally, there were 2,579 complaints about heating and hot water in social housing from 2019-20 to 2021-22.
Of these, 2,021 were about properties managed by housing associations, and 533 for housing provided by local authorities.
The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said councils "fully support" efforts to improve standards in the rental sector.
David Renard, the organisation's housing spokesperson, added that any new responsibilities for local authorities will need to be "adequately funded".
While the majority of complaints from the last financial year are yet to be given a final outcome, in 2020-21 there were 334 complaints across England regarding leaks, damp and mould where the housing provider was ultimately found to be in the wrong – 138 of which involved maladministration by local authorities.
Housing charity Shelter said the Social Housing Regulation Bill, which is currently going through parliament, is "long overdue".
Polly Neate, the charity's chief executive, said: “As well as much tighter regulation, we also need to see greater government investment in social housing, both to improve the homes we already have and to build high quality new ones.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the bill would improve the quality of social housing.
They said the housing secretary would block government funding to any housing provider breaching consumer standards.