Despite it pledging an additional £3.5bn to remove dangerous materials from high-rise buildings, the Government’s further measures to resolve the cladding crisis are inadequate, according to commentators.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, housing minister Robert Jenrick announced the further funding support to help pay for the remediation of unsafe buildings over 18 metres high, taking the total funding the Government has provided for this cause to £5bn.
Whitehall set aside £1.5bn for the work last year, a figure many said at the time would barely scratch the surface of the problem demonstrated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017.
Jenrick described the funding package as “generous” – “a comprehensive plan to…support leaseholders, restore confidence in this part of the housing market and ensure this situation never arises again”.
However, Salford Mayor Paul Dennett said the measures “fall far short” of the Government’s own prediction that £15bn would be required to remediate all high rise buildings across the country. “The £5bn figure will not put an end to the safety lottery,” Dennett said.
Ian Magenis, a partner at Manchester-based property management and surveying firm Scanlans, said it was “comforting” that the Government had recognised that the £1.5bn pledge last year was insufficient, but criticised Whitehall for failing to address other fire safety issues in the construction of buildings.
“It is disappointing that yesterday’s announcement appears to only focus on external cladding and does not address timber balconies and walkways, internal compartmentation or internal fire doors, which are matters of equal concern and appear to be being ignored,” he said.
In addition, the financial support announced yesterday does not cover the removal of cladding from buildings under 18 metres tall. Residents living in these buildings will instead be forced to take out loans to pay for the work, with repayments capped at £50 a month.
The failure of some developers to contribute has caused outrage among leaseholders. A spokesperson from Manchester Cladiators, a group campaigning on behalf of leaseholders, described the level of funding announced as a “betrayal”.
“The Government promised us that no leaseholder would have to pay to make their homes safe,” the spokesperson said. “Many people living in buildings under 18 metres will still have to bear the cost – for many above £30,000 – saddled with debt around their necks for thirty years.”
Said Dennett: “It cannot be right that residents who have bought a home in good faith should live in fear of a fire in their building and live in fear of bankruptcy to fix the failings of profit-making developers.”
Other measures laid out by the housing minister yesterday include a new tax on developers, due to be implemented in 2022, that is expected to raise £2bn towards the cladding remediation programme over the next 10 years.
One North West-based developer that asked not to be named said that while the introduction of the new tax owas understandable, it “conveniently ignores that there is a whole supply chain involved in this issue”.