The Government has today announced the creation of a new £3.5 billion fund to facilitate the remediation of combustible cladding installed to high-rise residential tower blocks. The new fund, which is to be financed in part by new taxes and levies on the developers of high-rise buildings, is intended to offer relief to leaseholders in high-rise residential buildings who are currently faced with potentially ruinous bills for the repair of unsafe cladding installed to their properties.
While the Government's announcement must be welcomed, there remain significant criticisms of the Government's proposals:
- Firstly, access to the fund is only available to leaseholders of residential tower blocks of 18 metres or over, with leaseholders of shorter residential buildings only entitled to a long term, low interest loan to pay for the remedial works to replace unsafe cladding materials. As such leaseholders of shorter residential buildings are likely to feel that the Government has not honored its earlier pledge that leaseholders would not be made to pay for the resolution of fire safety defects; and
- Secondly, the funding will only cover the replacement of unsafe cladding materials and cannot be applied to the remediation of any underlying fire safety defects in the construction of the property that may be identified during the remediation process. As such leaseholders may still be liable for significant bills for the repair of safety failures for which they are not responsible even where they are entitled to access the new fund.
The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced a new £3.5bn fund to fix dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings in England and further loans for leaseholders to fix similar problems in shorter buildings, with maximum monthly repayments of £50 a month. The cash grants would be offered to leaseholders in residential buildings in England over 18 metres tall, or above six storeys, so they faced no costs for cladding remediation works, Jenrick told parliament. He claimed it was the “largest ever government investment in building safety”.