By World Infrastructure Journal-
Robert Jenrick, Housing Secretary announced yesterday to the House of Commons that £3.5 billion will be given towards cladding removal across England.
This will be available to buildings over 18m (six storeys) who still have highly flammable cladding on their facades, four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster which killed 72 people and raised concern over unsafe building materials.
The 80,000 buildings under 18m which are still in need of cladding removal, will not be eligible for this extra funding but will instead have access to a government-backed loan. This long-term low-interest programme also guarantees that no resident will pay back more than £50 a month which in some cases, could take over 80 years to repay.
In addition, Mr Jenrick announced that a new £2 billion levy will be placed upon the largest property developers in order to cover the grant costs.
Andrew Southern, Chairman of developers Southern Grove, in response to yesterday’s announcement, expressed concern that property developers were being unfairly targeted. He stated that "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?" .
Many others explained that this extra funding does not go far enough, given that Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) statistics, put the true cost of removing the flammable cladding at nearer £15 billion.
Mr Jenrick, stated “this is a comprehensive plan to remove unsafe cladding, support leaseholders, restore confidence to this part of the housing market and ensure this situation never arises again”. However, Conservative MP Stephen McPartland criticised that the “announcement did not go far enough and the issue was much bigger than the matter of cladding”.
This comes after further tests revealed that building materials used on thousands of developments across England have been found to be just as flammable as the cladding. Labour have put the number potentially at risk across the country because of flammable materials at an estimated 11 million people.
Many residents who were not covered by the previous £1.5 billion Government funding, have taken out loans to cover the removal costs. This has reached as high as £150,000 and led to bankruptcy in certain unfortunate cases. For the Grenfell United group, yesterday’s announcement was “too little, too late” for those families already experiencing this financial and emotional burden. “Residents living in unsafe homes will go to bed tonight worrying if their building will qualify or be left out once again. And bereaved and survivors of Grenfell will lay awake fearful that what happened to us could still happen again”.
MHCLG also announced yesterday that legislation to update building safety regulations and review construction products will be brought forward “to prevent malpractice again”.
Yet for many still living in at-risk buildings across the country this is not enough. In response to the Housing Secretary's statement, the UK Cladding Action Group said that he had “betrayed thousands of hard-working families. Make no mistake, [yesterday’s] announcement will not make anything better".
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