Housing

'There's no magic bullet': Westminster government won't follow Wales in buying cladding homes

Despite government pledges that leaseholders facing bankruptcy will be protected, no solution has been found to the crisis almost five years on from the Grenfell fire.

The Polluter Pays Bill has been developed by residents to offer a mechanism that will make property developers pay to fix unsafe housing they developed. Image: Reece Lipman

The Westminster government will not follow in the footsteps of Welsh leaders by buying homes affected by dangerous cladding and fire defects, a government minister has confirmed.

Scores of people are facing bankruptcy or homelessness over bills to fix their homes but both the prime minister and housing secretary Michael Gove have said that people will be protected from the post-Grenfell crisis.

Despite those pledges, a solution has still not been found almost five years since the tragic fire. However, the Welsh government announced plans last month to buy a small amount of flats to help leaseholders who have been unable to sell their homes.

The Westminster government will not be doing the same, the Minister of State for Building Safety and Fire Lord Stephen Greenhalgh told peers on Wednesday.

“I always love a magic bullet but the reality is that the cladding crisis and the building safety crisis in Wales is a fraction of the scale in England,” he said. “It’s just a fact. We aren’t going to solve it through that.

“What we need to have is a greater sense of proportion. We have made this a bigger scandal than it needs to be because too many buildings have been declared unsafe that are perfectly safe and frankly there is an industry profiteering off this and we need to do something about that.”

Lord Greenhalgh added: “The government has stated that leaseholders should not be paying for excessive building costs and the secretary of state is looking into the issue.”

The minister also told peers that funds from the Treasury were not the answer to solve the problem and “we’ve got to get the polluter to pay”.

The UK government has committed to a £5.1bn fund to remediate buildings over 18 metres in height by removing dangerous aluminium composite material cladding like the type used at Grenfell.

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But solutions have been offered from elsewhere. The Polluter Pays bill is a solution being driven by residents from Royal Artillery Quays in Woolwich, south-east London.

Residents say using the polluters pay principle would enable the government to pursue remediation and interim fire safety costs from developers and other responsible parties without time limitation and save leaseholders from footing the bill.

The building safety crisis continues to be a big issue in 2022 and as MPs and peers returned to Westminster following the Christmas recess, the prime minister was also quizzed on the crisis at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Following the question from Labour MP Neil Coyle, Boris Johnson said: “We will deliver on our pledge to protect residents from fire safety risks and manage the injustice leaseholders face.”

Johnson added that the Commons would be updated on the issue soon.

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