England: Government to fully fund unsafe cladding removal in social housing

Image of the Grenfell Tower fire courtesy of Natalie Oxford via Twitter

The UK government has announced it will fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations in England, estimated at £400 million.

Under the plans, local authorities and housing associations will be given access to the money to help with reasonable costs of removing and replacing unsafe cladding from buildings which they own to ensure people are safe in their homes.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government established a building safety programme which made clear that aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on buildings over 18 metres which was not compliant with building regulations guidance should be remediated by the building owners.

The fund follows the government’s offer last year of financial flexibilities to assist local authorities with essential fire safety work.

The government said it has heeded concerns of social sector landlords who are having to take decisions about how to prioritise important services, repairs and maintenance work and investment in new homes.

“Although social landlords have made good progress on replacing unsafe cladding, it is right to provide further support,” it said.

The government will also continue to provide financial flexibilities to councils for other essential fire safety measures and is directing local authorities to take cladding-related issues into account when carrying out reviews of housing conditions in their areas.

Social landlords have been working hard to replace unsafe cladding. Interim safety measures are in place in all affected buildings and latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that over 65% (104 out of 158) of social housing buildings with unsafe cladding are currently going through the process of remediation.

The additional money will enable social housing providers to focus on providing safe properties for people to live in.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire MP said: “People must always feel safe in their own home. Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have taken steps to ensure the immediate safety of all high rise buildings.

“This money will ensure local authorities and housing associations are being given the support they need to get this work done now as well as removing the uncertainty around funding.”

Chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, added: “We have always been clear that unsafe cladding must be removed from tower blocks so that people are safe in their own homes.

“But we do not want vital safety work to put at risk our high priority house-building programmes. So we have decided to provide funding to ensure that housing associations and councils can carry out this vital work.

“The government is clear that building owners in the private sector must ensure private sector homes are made safe.”

James Brokenshire will meet industry representatives to ensure that remediation work is completed as soon as possible.

Chartered Institute of Housing deputy chief executive, Gavin Smart, said: “Following the horrendous events at Grenfell Tower we have been calling on the government to provide financial support to help landlords make sure that buildings are safe, so we welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding by councils and housing associations.

“It means that social landlords will be able to carry out vital safety work without undermining their existing repairs and maintenance programmes or their work to build new homes. We look forward to seeing more detail on how the funding will be allocated.”

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