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The Guardian view on unsafe housing: underinvestment costs lives

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The mould that caused the death of Awaab Ishak is widespread in substandard social homes

The details revealed at the inquest of Awaab Ishak, who died aged two in December 2020 due to respiratory problems caused by mould growing in his family’s flat, were shocking. His father had repeatedly complained to their landlord, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. A health visitor had sent two letters warning of the risks. But nothing was done.

After last week’s verdict blamed the toddler’s death on mould, with the coroner saying that the tragedy should be a “defining moment”, the housing mutual initially held on to its chief executive, Gareth Swarbrick, but then fired him at the weekend. While his public disgrace may afford some satisfaction to Awaab’s grieving relatives, and to other tenants anxious to see housing bosses held accountable, the serious problems in England’s social housing stock go far beyond one man and one organisation.

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