UK Politics

Cladding crisis: Victims speak out about new government funding

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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has promised £3.5 billion in grants to remove flammable cladding from UK homes, in a long-awaited government announcement. But more than three years after the fire at Grenfell Tower that killed 72 people, many see the new funding as too little, too late.

The blaze at Grenfell spread rapidly via cladding attached the outside of the building, installed in 2015, in part to improve the appearance of the tower block.

Since then, it has been revealed that hundreds of thousands of people are living in homes with flammable cladding, similar to that which covered Grenfell Tower.

Unable to sell their homes until the cladding is removed, thousands of leaseholders are having to fork out huge sums for home insurance, additional fire safety measures, and to remove the cladding themselves.

The government’s announced of a £3.5 billion in grants, available to leaseholders to apply to, has been met with ire by many of those living in unsafe housing. A cross-party group of MPs calculated last month that the total cost of removing all flammable cladding could be as high as £15 billion.

Furthermore, the grants will only cover buildings over 18 metres high – with residents in shorter buildings having to take out loans to front the cost.

I spoke with people caught up in the so-called ‘cladding crisis’ – what do they make of the government’s response?

Georgie, Manchester

“Yet again, the amount is deeply insufficient. It is widely known that the problem is much, much large in scope. I wonder how this amount has been decided upon. The government are continually not admitting the full scale of all the issues and how many people are impacted. The amount keeps growing as more buildings identified.

“What about other fire safety issues that are not cladding and are not fire alarms? The massive service charge hikes? What about buildings under 18 metres? I live in the building that is five stories – so one story too low. Yet again we’re excluded, when our buildings are assessed the same. Fire does not discriminate.

“As someone with complex disabilities, I’ve never been so stressed and unwell. I don’t even think disabled people have been considered. Mortified. This is not our fault.”

Meena, Manchester

“That sounds very good on the surface, but I’m not sure it’s going to cover the extent of the problem that we’re facing. Currently fire safety legislation requires us to remediate much more than cladding, but the fire safety fund only gives out funding for cladding. And it’s on a first come, first served basis and doesn’t even cover buildings under 18 metres.

“So unless all of that is addressed, I’m afraid leaseholders are still going to be held liable for costs, including spiralling insurance costs and the fact that no lenders are lending on these properties. The government really needs to sort all that out.”

Paul, South West London

“The announcement was a communications exercise and a way to prevent a backbench rebellion rather than a solution to fix this issue.  The language about protecting taxpayers is infuriating.  We are taxpayers and have followed the law.

“This just encourages developers to continue to build unsafe homes and signals to other industries that they do not need to worry about repercussions for not following government guidance.”

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