THE Government has allocated a further £3.5 billion towards the cost of removing unsafe cladding from buildings across England, after a widespread campaign by residents who were being asked to foot the bill.
The new figure, together with the £1.6-billion fund announced by the Government last year, still covers only part of the £15 billion needed to replace all unsafe cladding in the country, however, causing further disappointment among residents and campaigners.
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that leaseholders in high-rise buildings above 18 metres, or with six storeys or more, would face no costs for cladding works. He said that the risk was “significantly lower” for lower-rise blocks.
Mr Jenrick also announced a long-term scheme to ensure that no leaseholder paid more than £50 a month for the removal of unsafe cladding.
In the past five days, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition to the Government to cover the full retrospective costs of replacing the now banned ACM cladding, whose flammability is thought to be a cause of the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people (News, 16 June 2017). Other non-ACM cladding has also been deemed unsafe.
Homeowners have been expected to pay for this removal, despite having bought the properties before the cladding was fixed or found to be unsafe. This has trapped leaseholders in unsaleable properties. It is estimated that as many as 11 million flat-owners in the UK are now living in unsafe buildings.
A campaigner, Steve Day, who bought his flat six years ago but is facing bankruptcy owing to the cladding crisis, has enlisted the support of more than 60 bishops and clergy in the Church of England and Church in Wales, including the Archbishop of Wales (News, 15 January).
Mr Day said on Wednesday that the new money did not cover other significant costs to leaseholders, including insurance increases and other fire safety defects such as internal compartmentation and cavity barriers. “Developers have escaped from serious costs and the taxpayer will pick up the rest, which seems unfair.”
The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, who is vice-chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, agreed. He posted on social media on Wednesday: “It’s good that the Government is putting more money into solving the #CladdingScandal. A step in the right direction though only a step. It will still need more investment to cover the costs and doesn’t solve the problem of huge insurance bills facing residents. . .
“It also doesn’t address other fire safety defects that have become apparent in high-rise buildings. Loans that expect people to pay £50 a month are still tough on low-income families, especially when they are not responsible for the defects they are paying to remedy.”
He continued: “Developers should foot most of the bill, not leaseholders or taxpayers. Housing should be Safe — one of the key elements of good housing.”
Read comment from Dr Tomlin: Why should the Church care about housing?