Housing

Some leaseholders will still face huge bills under Michael Gove's cladding crisis plan, MPs warn

Michael Gove has been told to scrap caps on costs, compensate leaseholders for cash already paid out to fix homes and end ‘political games’ with affordable housing.

cladding Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for an end to the building safety crisis. The archbishop met campaigners Manchester Cladiators on Thuesday. Image: Manchester Cladiators

Michael Gove’s plan to end the building safety crisis does not protect all leaseholders from paying to fix cladding on their homes, according to MPs.

The housing secretary this week gave housing developers a final deadline of the end of March to come up with a funding plan to pay £4bn to remove dangerous cladding from buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height.

But MPs from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee warned Gove’s plan will not protect all of the leaseholders facing bankruptcy or homelessness over bills to fix their homes or social housing residents at risk of rising costs.

Committee chair Clive Betts said: “Leaseholders should not be paying a penny to rectify faults not of their doing in order to make their homes safe. Nearly five years after the tragic Grenfell fire, it is shameful this situation is yet to be properly resolved. While we welcome Michael Gove’s commitment to fixing these issues, we are concerned there are gaps in the secretary of state’s proposals which risk leaving leaseholders to pick up the bill.”

In a report released on Friday, MPs called for Gove to compensate leaseholders for money already paid out to fix their homes and to set up a building safety fund to cover costs for remediating properties where the original “polluter” cannot be traced.

The housing secretary was also urged to go beyond developers and manufacturers in covering costs – seeking cash from product suppliers, installers, contractors and sub-contractors – as well as scrapping the cap on non-cladding costs. Under plans announced by Gove in January, leaseholders will not pay more than £10,000 out of London and £15,000 in the English capital to fix fire defects on their homes.

MPs also disagreed with Gove’s plan to exclude buy-to-let landlords with more than one property from protections, warning that there are other options to exclude wealthy property tycoons who can afford to pay for repairs from receiving support.

The National Residential Landlords Association backed this stance. Chief executive Ben Beadle said landlords were “no more to blame than other leaseholders for historic building safety defects”.

Gove has previously been unable to confirm that the government’s £11bn Affordable Housing Programme will not be affected if he cannot convince developers to come up with the funding solution he has demanded.

But both Betts and cladding campaigners have warned the minister against playing “political games”.

“The government needs to stop pitting the building safety crisis against the housing crisis,” said Betts. 

He added: “The government should also come forward with a cast-iron guarantee that the Affordable Homes Programme is protected at its current level in the event that the government fails in its bid to secure sufficient funds from industry.”

A spokesperson for campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal said: “It is vital to cease the games being played with affordable housing budgets simply because the chancellor is continuing to ignore our plight.

“Solving both the building safety and housing crises is, and always has been, a matter of political will and choice.

The campaigners added: ‘We ask that Mr Gove holds true to his promises and shows he has the will, authority, and nerve to free us from this nightmare.”

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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is among the supporters calling for the building safety crisis to end.

The archbishop met campaigners from Manchester Cladiators on Thursday. He said: “Although we know the facts around the building safety and cladding crisis, when you meet the people and see the trauma they have been through it really brings it home. We need action to deal with this injustice which is impacting millions of people across the country.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said the measures they have announced to tackle the building safety crisis are the “most radical and far-reaching” 

“Industry, not leaseholders, must pay to fix the problems they caused. We will consider the committee’s report carefully and respond in detail.

“However, asking taxpayers to pay more upfront instead of developers, and to cover costs for overseas property investors, would be entirely the wrong approach.”

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