Secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove, has today (10th January), written to the industry giving them a deadline of early March to agree a fully funded plan of action.
This includes remediating unsafe cladding on 11-18-metre buildings, currently estimated at £4bn.
He has warned that he will take “all steps necessary” to make this happen, including restricting access to government funding and future procurements, the use of planning powers, and the pursuit of companies through the courts.
If the industry fails to take responsibility, he said that the government will impose a solution in law, if necessary.
The letter read: “Our home should be a source of security and pride. For too many of the people living in properties your industry has built in recent years, their home has become a source of misery. This must change.”
In the letter, Gove asked companies to agree to:
- make financial contributions to a dedicated fund to cover the full outstanding cost to remediate unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings
- fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing
- provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 meters which have historic safety defects and which they have played a part in constructing in the past 30 years
Developers are expected to prioritise those with greatest risks first and, in all cases, find the quickest and most proportionate solution to make buildings safe.
Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, said that today’s announcement was “vindication for thousands facing astronomical costs” that come with replacing unsafe cladding.
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“Those imprisoned by these costs still face an uphill struggle, as funding will only cover cladding replacement when new legislation mandates much more substantial changes to meet fire safety compliance, which come at a steep cost.
“We ought to also question how this funding will be secured, the accessibility of grants, and the transparency of a system which transfers responsibility from the true culprits who were largely wound down and disappeared post-Grenfell, to developers more broadly who face a blanket tax for the failure of a few.”
Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, which represents 350 councils across England and Wales, commented that Gove’s threat to use the legal system to ensure developers meet their responsibilities to leaseholders was “a positive step” in the right direction.
“However, leaseholders are not the only innocent victims of the construction industry’s failure to build safe homes.
“The construction industry must also be made to fix the fire safety defects it has built into blocks owned by councils and housing associations.
“Unless the government forces the industry to act, or provide funding, we are concerned that the costs of fixing social housing blocks will fall on council housing revenue accounts and housing associations.”
He stated that this would reduce the funding available to meet the government’s ambitions for improvements to social housing, net zero, and the provision of new social housing — leaving tenants and those on the waiting list to “suffer the consequences of decades of industry failure and poor regulation”.
The government is set to host a roundtable with the largest residential developers and trade bodies and will be inviting leaseholders and those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy to the table to discuss solutions at appropriate junctures, to ensure discussions are “not taking place behind closed doors”.
The government will announce a decision on which companies are in scope for funding contributions, but expects it to cover all firms with annual profits from housebuilding at or above £10m.
Later today, Gove is due to make a statement to the House of Commons announcing plans to protect innocent leaseholders who are trapped in unsellable homes and face excessive bills to fix dangerous cladding defects.
He is also set to unveil a package of measures to restore common sense to the industry and end the situation of buildings being declared unsafe when they are not.