Government bows to pressure on leaseholders’ cladding costs! Now for protection from cold.

For 18 months thousands of leaseholders in high rise buildings have lived in fear of fire, financial ruin, or both, as freeholders, developers and the government have debated who should pay for re-cladding buildings with Grenfell-style walls.  

In October, FPA presented to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government an open letter signed by nearly 150 representatives, including leaseholders, tenants, trade unions, and 28 MPs from four parties, demanding immediate replacement of flammable cladding for the homes of both tenants and leaseholders – without cost to the residents themselves.

We said, “For private housing, central government must cover the initial costs, and then seek to recover costs from landlords, developers and contractors. “

This week’s news that “the government will now provide cash to councils to carry out works on private blocks on the basis that they would have the powers to reclaim it” (Councils cleared to rip Grenfell-style cladding from private buildings“, Guardian, 29 November) appears to accede to that demand, and residents are – cautiously – hopeful.   Beverley Reynolds-Logue, a Green Quarter, Manchester representative who was among the residents meeting the MHCLG with the Open Letter in October, says, “I think this is good news! Let’s hope they stick to their word.  Thank you so much for involving our group in Green Quarter in all that you’ve done on this issue.”

But while insulation is off the buildings – in social or private housing – residents must not be left to freeze this winter.  FPA’s Open Letter also demanded a guarantee that these residents living in buildings with cladding removed will not pay more for using extra energy to heat their homes, and will have access to extra provisions for warmth, including safe space heaters and damp and mould treatments. Where homes cannot be made fit for habitation, alternative local housing should be offered. The government must ensure that people affected by this disastrous failure of building regulations do not add to the thousands who, every winter, die because they cannot heat their homes  — a death toll that leapt by 40% last winter.

On 22 November James Brokenshire wrote to us in response to our Open Letter,  “. . . The Government expects landlords to protect residents, where possible, from any disruption caused by the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding and to communicate with them regularly during this process. That includes programming and sequencing their work, in consultation with residents, to ensure that people are not unduly exposed to cold”.  

However there is no government policy to provide funds for this purpose, or to enforce legal standards for habitable homes.  Winter is upon us. This cannot take another 18 months.