9 May 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The government has announced £200 million of funding to replace cladding on about 170 privately owned high-rise buildings.
It said it had "stepped in to speed up vital cladding replacement by fully funding the work, eliminating excuses used by some building owners and protecting leaseholders from the costs".
The funding will be made available to remove and replace unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. This step has been taken after private building owners failed to take action and tried to offload costs on to leaseholders.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "It is of paramount importance that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes. That's why we asked building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure appropriate safety measures were in place. And we've seen a number of private building owners doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but unfortunately too many are continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders."
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government established a comprehensive building safety programme that included an independent review of fire safety and building regulations.
Communities secretary James Brokenshire said: "Although temporary measures are in place to ensure people living in these buildings are safe, too many owners are treating this as a permanent fix. Others are trying to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds.
"While some building owners have been swift to act, and I thank them for doing the right thing, I am now calling time on the delay tactics of others. If these reckless building owners won't act, the government will."
The latest figures show that 166 private buildings are yet to start works on removing and replacing ACM cladding, compared with 23 in the social sector.
Building owners will have three months to access the new fund. The government has said it "will look carefully at those who fail to remediate and consider what further action can be taken".
Building owners and developers who have already fully funded the remediation of buildings are Pemberstone, Aberdeen Asset Management, Barratt Developments, Fraser Properties, Legal & General, Mace, and Peabody.
As a condition of funding, the government says it would require the building owner to "take reasonable steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding".
High-rise buildings are defined as those above 18 metres in height.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "It is a source of deep concern that nearly two years after the devastating Grenfell fire this dangerous cladding is still on buildings.
"It is vital that it is removed as quickly as possible. The first priority of any government must be to protect its citizens, so we welcome today's announcement.
"We look forward to seeing more detail on the scheme and hope it is able to work quickly and effectively to give residents a safe home."
Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "This announcement will come as an enormous relief to leaseholders who are in no way to blame for the dangerous cladding on their homes. They have suffered for far too long.
"Since the LGA first raised their plight in 2017, we have been working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government [MHCLG] to ensure the Treasury provided the necessary funding, and it is great that we have been listened to.
"Reputable developers have done the right thing and paid for buildings to be fixed, but it would be wrong if the taxpayer had to pay the bills of those developers and contractors who are responsible for this crisis.
"It is right therefore that, while the government has committed to cover the cost temporarily, it has also said it will do everything in its power to ensure those responsible for the installation of unsafe cladding and insulation on their buildings, or indeed their insurers, eventually pay the full cost for its removal and replacement."
Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government identified 176 private high-rise residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding.
According to the most recent data compiled by the MHCLG, 10 of these buildings have completed work to replace the cladding.
The fund will be available for private high-rise residential buildings (those containing homes). The government is already fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on social sector properties.
Building owners will be able to register for the fund by early July.
Plans outlined on 18 December 2018 explain how the government will implement the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her review of building regulations and fire safety.