Housing Minister Promises To Introduce A Cladding Plan But Warns There Is No "Quick Fix"
Housing minister Chris Pincher said there is no “quick fix” to supporting the leaseholder victims of the cladding scandal but the government would bring forward a plan to help them “very shortly”.
Labour has said the government must urgently step in to stop the “intolerable cladding crisis” that is leaving leaseholders to “go broke” with worthless flats they cannot sell.
The 23-storey Grenfell Tower in West London had been wrapped in aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding as part of a refurbishment scheme when a fire ripped through it, killing 71 people, in 2017.
Since then cladding of different types has been found on thousands of buildings across the country and in some cases leaseholders have been asked to contribute significant sums of money to investigate the type of cladding, and then make buildings safe if remediation work needs to take place.
This has included expensive “waking-watch” fire wardens which have cost people hundreds of pounds per month on top of their mortgage payments.
Mr Pincher told MPs in the Commons today: “Through no fault of their own, we know that leaseholders have found themselves in a most challenging, difficult and agonising situation.”
He said they would make a further announcement on how the government intends on helping them “very shortly”.
Mr Pincher continued: “There is no quick fix. If there was, we would have done it long ago. It is complex. It involves many parties, leaseholders with different leases, developers, warranty holders, the insurance industry, mortgage lenders.
"We have to bring forward a solution that is right and proper... that is fair to leaseholders, who should not have to carry unfair costs for problems they did not cause or envisage, and which is fair to the tax-payer who is already shouldering a significant burden in remediating many buildings."
He said “real strides” were made in removing ACM cladding specifically from buildings, which has been the priority since the Grenfell fire.
The government has also introduced a £1 billion building safety fund, which has had 2,840 applications, but in many cases he said building owners had not provided information such as building height and material types to deliver the money. There has also been a £30 million fund to pay for the cost of installing alarm systems.
Labour has claimed that up to 11 million people are at risk from significant costs to rectify cladding used on their buildings as well as making their homes unsellable.
Today in an opposition day debate the party will call on the government to ensure costs are not passed on to residents and those responsible for the cladding scandal are pursued.
The Conservative Party has said its MPs will abstain on the opposition day motion, which is not legally binding.
So many MPs wanted to speak in the debate that there was a three minute time limit.
Shadow housing minister Thangam Debbonaire said one woman who was a first time-buyer had to declare bankruptcy after being forced to pay for a £300 a month for a waking watch warden on top of her mortgage.
She said: “People are being forced to pay more than they can afford for a problem they didn’t cause."
Labour is also calling for an Australian-style taskforce. It would have six aims: immediate up-front funding for removing "deadly" cladding, protecting leaseholders and taxpayers by pursuing those responsible for the cladding scandal for costs, a new, legally enforceable 2022 deadline to make homes safe, legislation to protect residents from costs, getting the market moving by ensuring affected residents can sell and re-mortgage and stamping out rogue builders by reforming the sector.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “I urge Conservative MPs to vote with us in Parliament today and put their constituents’ safety and security first. And I urge the Government to get a grip of this crisis through a national taskforce and by implementing Labour’s six demands.”
Recently the House of Lords passed an amendment to the UK Government’s Fire Safety Bill making changes to the current legislation to protect leaseholders from having to pay for historical fire safety remedial work, including the removal of dangerous cladding.