After 2017’s Grenfell disaster – the devastating tower block fire where flames spread via combustible cladding killing 72 people, many other tower blocks were also found to be unsafe.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing announced that the government will pay £3.5 billion for the removal of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in high-rise buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England.
Many leaseholders in Tower Hamlets were worried that they wouldn’t able to sell their property nor re-mortgage due to banks requiring an EWS1 form, which was introduced as part of a new External Wall Fire Review process valuing high-rise buildings.
However, leaseholders in lower or medium blocks where cladding replacement is needed will not be eligible for this funding and will instead have to pay up to £50 a month for cladding work through a long term loan scheme.
Jenrick claimed it was the “largest ever government investment in building safety”.
The government will tax housing developers to help pay for the costs, which it says will raise £2bn over the next 10 years.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “In Tower Hamlets we have one of the greatest number of buildings with external wall systems known to contain combustible material. I have met with many residents who saved up to buy homes that they can’t sell and have spent the last four years in a nightmare situation where they trapped in unsafe homes and have no way of covering the costs of these safety measures.
“We have been lobbying Westminster to recognise the dire needs of these leaseholders and provide them with the necessary financial support they need. The announcement of this new funding is welcome but it has taken far too long for the government to act and I remain concerned that it saddles leaseholders with debt and only focusses on cladding and not other fire safety issues so the Government needs to recognise that more support is needed.’’
Cllr Eve McQuillan, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion, said: “It’s shocking that over three years on from the Grenfell Fire residents are still living in unsafe blocks. We’ve seen the government make announcements on this before but our residents need action and we will continue to lobby on their behalf.
“We need to look at the detail of the funding arrangements announcement but I welcome the setting up of an independent taskforce to identify the most dangerous buildings so that the cladding removal can be expedited.”
In 2020 the Government had set up a £1.6bn building safety fund. Figures from last year showed that Tower Hamlets had the highest number of buildings that had registered for the fund. The new funding means £5bn will now be available. The funding announcement does not cover shared ownership properties or offer additional powers or money for councils to carry out enforcement.
For more information on the Building Safety Fund: www.gov.uk/guidance/remediation-of-non-acm-buildings