In My View: Janet Daby, MP for Lewisham East

Almost four years after the awful fire at Grenfell Tower, the fallout of the UK’s cladding scandal is still ongoing.

It has been widely reported that 56,000 people are still living in unsafe blocks, but this only accounts for those buildings using Grenfell-style ACM cladding.

Inside Housing has estimated that the true number of people living in potentially dangerous properties is around 600,000.

While it is understandably the most immediate concern, fire safety is only the tip of the iceberg.

Across the country, leaseholders and shared owners are reckoning with the prospect of having to pay for the removal of cladding in their properties.

On top of this, delays over cladding removal mean that residents cannot obtain the EWS1 forms necessary to put their homes on the market.

Defects have been discovered in thousands of properties, while in the absence of thorough checks many more are considered too risky by lenders.

Despite missing its 2020 deadline for the removal of all Grenfell-style cladding, the Government’s recent announcement of a £5 billion fund for cladding remediation was welcome.

Leaseholders had no knowledge of these problems when signing the contracts, and it is  unconscionable that they should have to pay for developers’ mistakes.

However, the fund only covers a third of the estimated £15 billion it will take to end the cladding  scandal, and a myriad of other problems remain unresolved.

Inevitably, many residents will still have to part cover the remediation costs, while the Government’s stipulation that only buildings over 18m in height are eligible for the fund is an arbitrary and ill-chosen cut off that will exclude many legitimate claims.

Hidden costs can also quickly pile up, burdening residents with yet more financial problems.

While the cladding scandal has brutally exposed the inadequacy of housing regulation in this country, these are not the only problems leaseholders face.

I recently held a meeting about the Catford Green development in my constituency, where residents have been fighting a two-year battle over their heating supply.

District heating is a useful way of tackling the climate crisis by providing low-carbon heating to large housing developments.

However, a lack of regulation around the sector means that residents can find developers have locked them into multi-year contracts with heating providers without their prior knowledge or agreement.

In both cases the dynamic is the same, and like cladding, heating is an area where residents have been the victims of inadequate regulation.

What this shows is that we need a housing programme focused on people, rather than profit.

A Labour Government would put residents – leaseholders, shared owners, and renters alike – at the centre of housing policy, to ensure that they are never again asked to pay for others’ mistakes.

 


 

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