The housing secretary has fiercely criticised Britain's biggest social landlord, Clarion, for not meeting "fundamental housing standards", as he warned the organisation must improve. Michael Gove said he was "deeply disappointed" with Clarion's recent performance after the Housing Ombudsman found the landlord guilty of "severe maladministration" in two separate cases, finding "serious problems with leaks, damp, mould and pest control" as well as complaints handling. Last year an ITV News investigation found Clarion tenants living in squalid conditions on one of its biggest housing estates in Merton, South London. The landlord carried out over 500 repairs on the Eastfields estate following our expose and apologised to tenants, but insisted it was an isolated case.
In June 2021, Daniel Hewitt reported on the dire conditions some Clarion Housing tenants had to live in
In the letter to Clarion's Chief Executive Clare Miller, Mr Gove cited the Eastfields investigation and raised concerns the same problems are still surfacing in its properties a year on. "No one should have to live in a home with these conditions - and it should not take years to put them right," writes Mr Gove.
"I am deeply disappointed that as one of the largest social housing landlords, who should be setting an example, you have not been able to meet fundamental standards for your tenants. "I intend to take a personal and direct interest in your association's approach to housing conditions, engagement with residents and vulnerable complainants in particular."
Daniel Hewitt provides insight on the latest development in Britain's social housing crisis
Clarion is the UK’s largest housing association, owning and managing 125,000 homes housing around 350,000 tenants. The housing secretary has said he's prepared to personally intervene "to drive up standards and hold landlords responsible."
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Exactly what Mr Gove is prepared or able to do is unclear in the letter, though I understand the government could threaten to withdraw funding pledged to Clarion for new social homes should the landlord fail to improve.
Clarion was recently named a new "strategic partner" for Homes England to play a key role in accelerating the number of affordable homes, a partnership that may also be re-visited. In the Queen's Speech, the government also outlined plans to give more powers to the Social Housing Regulator, which could impose uncapped fines on social landlords. The Housing Ombudsman has already stated its intention to conduct a wider investigation into Clarion.
Earlier this year, Daniel Hewitt reported on a Clarion tenant whose corridor was filled with boiling water
In a statement Clarion's Clare Miller said: "We can confirm we have received a letter from the secretary of state, relating to the ombudsman ruling, where we failed to provide the service our residents have a right to expect. “As chief executive of Clarion Housing Group, I will never shirk our responsibility to provide and maintain good quality homes. “We have not got every decision right as an organisation, but we are making good progress and recently published a detailed update on the actions we have taken to significantly improve our service. “There is no quick fix to the housing crisis and the UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the world. “As a charitable organisation, we will continue to do all we can to meet this challenge and we hope the government will work with us on our common goals.”