Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the government is to spend an additional £3.5 billion on paying for high-rise towers with dangerous cladding to be remediated, but is to introduce two new taxes for house builders to help recoup this huge cost.
Along with the existing £1.6 billion already spent by the Government on emergency measures to fix the cladding scandal following the Grenfell tower fire in 2017, this means the public purse has now paid out £5 billion to replace cladding in the private and public housing sectors.
But Jenrick revealed today that the extra funds would be only for towers over 18 metres tall or six storeys, and that those living in properties under that height would instead be offered long-term loans that would be guaranteed to cost no more than £50 a month.
Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth, says: “The Government needs to allocate funds to remove cladding and fire safety defects from all blocks, irrespective of height. Most important of all, the homeowners in lower rise blocks should not have to bear any of the costs to make their homes safe.
“A loan scheme will mean that these homeowners will be shackled with another financial burden, which could make it extremely difficult to sell the property.”
Jenrick also said developers building towers in the future would pay an additional cladding levy, along with a general extra tax on large house builders, details of which will be revealed soon.
“Remedying the failures of building safety cannot just be a responsibility for taxpayers. That is why we will also be introducing a levy and tax on developers to contribute to righting the wrongs of the past,” he said.
“These measures will provide certainty to residents and lenders, boosting the housing market, reinstating the value of properties and getting buying and selling homes back on track. We are working with lenders and surveyors to make this happen.”
But leasehold campaigners remain unconvinced. Paul Afshar (pictured) of End Our Cladding Scandal says: “The Government promised us no leaseholder would have to pay to make their homes safe. Today we feel betrayed.
“We were hoping for a solution to stop the sleepless nights and for millions living in buildings less than 18m there has been none. Robert Jenrick needs to get a grip on the cladding crisis.
“Loans longer than mortgage terms for millions and not even enough to cover the cost of making the buildings that the government consider most high risk safe.”
Mark Hayward (pictured), Chief Policy Adviser, Propertymark, says: “We hope that extra funds announced today will make the process quick, efficient and cover the work needed to resolve any safety concerns residents face.
“Today’s announcement is just a start and the Government must now also commit to completely eradicating this type of cladding to ensure the safety of all properties and residents, not just in England but across the United Kingdom.
“Supporting and challenging our industry to deliver change is more vital now than ever, and it is encouraging to be one step closer to ensuring that people are safe within the confines of their own homes, as standard.”
Andrew Southern (pictured), Chairman of property developer Southern Grove, says: “Taxing developers, most of whom weren’t responsible for the cladding crisis, is just laughable.
“Why should a company that has never installed dangerous cladding, and perhaps never built high rise blocks in the past, be tarred with the same brush and penalised when they’re no more responsible for this scandal than those in other sectors building cars, running our hospitals and educating our children.”
David Westgate, group chief executive of Andrews Property Group, says: “This extra funding will barely scratch the surface of the cladding crisis in this country.
“Millions of property owners are stuck in limbo because their building has potentially unsafe cladding, and haven’t got the time to wait for it be replaced, which could take years.”