Letter to Julie Marson MP: Vote to Protect Those Impacted by the Cladding Scandal
Dear Ms Marson,
I am writing to you as a District Councillor in East Herts.
Across the country, many leaseholders are faced with enormous unexpected costs arising from the replacement of unsafe cladding on their buildings following the deficiencies exposed by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. They didn’t build the homes they live in or select the building materials or certify the buildings as safe. Yet they are faced with massive costs for the work of remedying these deficiencies. They cannot sell their homes since potential buyers are refused mortgages till the properties are made fire safe. The properties that surveyors approved and banks and mortgage companies were happy to lend against before Grenfell have suddenly been deemed of zero value by the same surveyors, banks and mortgage companies.
Many others were dragged into this situation by the government’s decision to bring blocks of flats over 11m into the equation – originally, only buildings over 18m high were obliged to replace any unsafe cladding, but the government has moved the goalposts without warning.
Whilst I obviously agree with the need to replace dangerous cladding as quickly as possible, the government is putting building owners – and particularly social landlords – into an impossible position. There are now millions of buildings affected by this situation.
As part of my duties as a councillor in East Herts, I sit on the residents panel of the housing provider Network Homes. During our latest panel meeting, we were presented with a question to discuss regarding Government help to social housing providers in replacing this inflammable cladding on their buildings. The organisation is facing crippling bills for replacing cladding on tower blocks in London and they are now forced to consider recharging shared owners as well as leaseholders for their share of the cost of replacement as per their original purchase agreement, which they had hoped to avoid. They are really alive to the terrible position that this will put those residents into but they are obliged to stay solvent for the sake of all their tenants. They are suggesting loans at 0% interest, or possibly a cap on the cost on each property. If they cannot recover the money they may not be able to build more social housing, impacting the good work that they already do.
The government has provided some money but the decision to add in buildings between 11 and 18m high has created this problem for Network Homes. The government needs to either provide more money or reconsider their demands to allow time for housing providers to finance and carry out the necessary works.
Generally, the timescale for the safety works is also causing immense problems for housing providers. There simply are not enough builders with the necessary skills to replace all the cladding identified as dangerous within the strict timescales set by Fire Risk Assessors.
I am writing to call on you to support Labour’s motion in Parliament on Monday which seeks to protect millions of leaseholders from huge bills for the cost of replacing unsafe cladding on blocks of flats. Labour will force a vote in parliament to protect millions of leaseholders impacted by the cladding scandal.
Labour is calling on the Government to:
“establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk;
“provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately; and
“protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.”
A similar amendment was proposed by Tory backbenchers Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith and has been supported by almost 50 cross-party MPs but most Conservative MP’s have ducked the issue. Please do not be one of those MPs. Please help us to help leaseholders and shared owners and protect them both physically and financially.
I am also asking that you sign up to the campaign to End Our Cladding Scandal. Based on the recommendations of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and backed by a range of sector bodies and MPs from across the political spectrum, the following are Inside Housing’s 10 steps to End Our Cladding Scandal:
The government must lead an urgent national effort to remove all dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022.
The Building Safety Fund must cover all buildings, regardless of height, and a range of internal and external fire safety defects, not just cladding.
The government should provide the money up front and then seek to recover it from any responsible parties or via a temporary levy on development.
Social housing providers must have full and equal access to the fund.
The government must compel building owners or managers to be honest with residents about fire safety defects.
The government should cover the cost of interim safety measures.
The government should act as an insurer of last resort and underwrite insurance where premiums have soared.
A fairer, faster process is needed to replace the EWS form and funding is necessary to ensure all buildings requiring a form are surveyed within 12 months.
Mental health support must be offered to affected residents.
Protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key commitment of new building safety legislation.
I hope you are able to add your voice to this campaign to protect leaseholders and shared owners and their social landlords.
District Councillor for Sele Ward, East Herts Council