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Michael Gove admits mistakes over social housing after tenant death

Michael Gove has admitted past mistakes made by the government over social housing have contributed to some tenants being neglected by landlords.

The housing secretary told the BBC the case of Sheila Seleoane – who lay dead in her flat for two-and-a-half years – was an unacceptable example of tenants being let down by housing associations.

He said the case speaks “to a wider culture of neglect” in the sector.

Her housing association, Peabody, has apologised.

The organisation said it had changed the way it works since Ms Seleoane’s death “to put people and their wellbeing at the centre of our operations”.

Why was my dead neighbour not found for two years?
Apology after tenant lay dead in flat for years
The body of Ms Seleoane, 58, lay undiscovered for two-and-a-half years in her flat in Peckham, south London, despite neighbours repeatedly raising concerns with Peabody and the police.

Mr Gove described the case as “an horrific story”.

“Her body was there in circumstances which speak to a wider culture of neglect,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Social housing tenants should be some of the best supported people in our society and this is just another example of people being let down.”

Mr Gove admitted it was a mistake for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to abolish the National Tenant Voice, a body set up to give tenants a say on social housing issues, in 2010.

Asked whether the coalition government was also wrong to abolish the social housing regulator, he said: “I think we can all now look back and consider some of the regulatory changes that were made in the past and reflect on whether or not they were right.”

He added that the government had now strengthened the power of the regulator, with social landlords facing tougher inspection regimes and a lower bar for intervention.

Under the coalition government, funding for affordable housing was cut significantly as part of efforts to reduce government spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

Pressed on whether it was a mistake to squeeze the finances of housing associations, Mr Gove said: “No, I disagree with that. I think it’s entirely possible for housing associations, and many do, both to provide new homes and ensure that the homes for which they’re currently responsible are safe, warm and decent.”

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