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  • Writer's pictureRepost Author: L Brandy

BBC NEWS GRENFELL: Extra £3.5bn for unsafe buildings 'too little, too late'



Campaigners have said the government's promise of £3.5bn of extra funding to remove unsafe cladding from England's high-rises is "too little, too late".


The government said flammable materials would be removed from buildings over 18m high "at no cost to residents".


But Labour said the "arbitrary" height limit could result in financial ruin for many in lower blocks, who would be offered loans to make their home safe.


After 2017's Grenfell disaster, many tower blocks were found to be unsafe.


This meant many thousands of flat-owners have since faced huge bills for fire-safety improvements, brought in after the devastating tower block fire when flames spread via combustible cladding, killing 72 people.


The Grenfell United campaign group said the latest measures were "too little, too late", and it needed the mess dealt with "once and for all".


"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," the group said.


In the Commons, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick also announced:


Owners of flats in lower-rise blocks would have access to loans to replace unsafe cladding - and would never have to pay more than £50 a month for them

A new levy on developers of future high rises to cover the cost of grants

A separate new tax on residential property development in the UK from 2022

The £3.5bn comes on top of £1.6bn in funding that was announced for the removal of unsafe cladding last year.


Ministers have come under growing pressure to increase the pot as leaseholders have been hit by building improvement costs and soaring insurance costs.


Some say they have effectively become trapped in their own homes - unable to sell until the work is carried out, yet in danger of bankrupting themselves to meet the costs.


Stephen Squires, who lives in a 22-storey block in Manchester, told the PA Media news agency he and others were "still stuck in limbo", even after the announcement.


The government had consistently failed to acknowledge the issues were far wider reaching than cladding, he said, and they still did not know whether fire safety defects would be covered by the funding.


Mr Jenrick told MPs that leaseholders in high-rise buildings above 18m, or with six storeys or more, would face no costs for cladding works.


He said the risk was "significantly lower" for lower-rise blocks of flats.


However, for anyone living with dangerous cladding in such flats, a loan scheme would be set up to protect leaseholders so none of them would pay more than £50 a month for the removal of unsafe cladding.


It "cannot be right the costs fall solely on tax payers", he said, adding that the government would develop a levy targeted at developers seeking to build certain high-rise buildings in England.


He also said a new tax for the UK residential property sector would be introduced from next year, to raise £2bn over a decade and help pay for the removal of cladding.


Mr Jenrick described the action as an "unprecedented intervention" without which building owners would simply pass on the costs of remediation work to leaseholders.


"That would risk punishing those who have worked hard, who have bought their own home, but through no fault of their own have found themselves caught in an absolutely invidious situation," he said.


The Home Builders Federation, a trade association for private sector homebuilders, said it supported "sensible" solutions for recouping costs and was looking forward to working with the government on an "equitable" tax that did not "threaten housing supply".


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