Funding package falls short as doubts still remain over where money will go, reports James Cracknell
Edmonton residents caught up in the nationwide cladding scandal affecting thousands living in unsafe buildings have described the government’s new support package as “a slap in the face”.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a series of measures in the House of Commons last month, aimed at helping people living in flats who have been told their building is a potential fire risk.
In most cases leaseholders have been asked to pay some, or even all, of the bill for fixing faults found in their building in the years since the Grenfell Tower disaster of 2017, despite not being made aware of these faults at the time they moved in. It means they have been left in limbo, unable to pay the cost of remediation but also unable to move out.
Several hundred Enfield borough residents are still believed to be living in buildings with unsafe cladding. Last year the Dispatch reported on the problems affecting residents of Prowse Court in Fore Street, Angel Edmonton. The building, just six years old, has timber-clad balconies, and leaseholders have been quoted bills for thousands of pounds to pay for replacement cladding.
The government’s new £3.5billion fund is intended to cover the cost of removing flammable materials from buildings taller than 18 metres, while those in smaller buildings will be offered loans costing up to £50 per month. There is also a new levy on developers of future high rises.
But Edel Smullen said Prowse Court residents were still liable to pay around £12,500 per flat because the remediation work needed on their building falls outside the limited scope of the government’s new fund. She said: “It doesn’t help our building at all. We’re stuck with the bills for balcony remediation. We can’t do the work until everyone pays up and most people don’t have that kind of money.”
Edel also questioned why leaseholders in smaller buildings were being asked to take loans, instead of developers. “If government deems it okay to structure a loan to leaseholders in this manner, then why not developers and those who have been pushing flammable products in the market?
“Campaign groups have put forward that solution but government won’t engage with it.”
Addressing the House of Commons last month, Robert Jenrick said: “While the problem is not one of leaseholders’ making, it cannot be right that the costs of addressing these issues fall solely on taxpayers, many of whom are not themselves homeowners and can only dream of getting on the housing ladder.”
Edel said: “Jenrick’s comments were massively insulting and upsetting – to all those who have lost family and friends in fires, who have lost their homes in fires, scraped for years to buy [homes] – always encouraged by the Conservatives – and to all leaseholders who are taxpayers. It’s a slap in the face.”
The government was asked by the Dispatch to confirm whether balconies were covered by its fund. A spokesperson said: “We announced a multi-billion investment to protect leaseholders from the unaffordable costs of replacing unsafe cladding. We will publish more details on how the different elements of the package will work in due course.”
Enfield North MP Feryal Clark is among many politicians critical of the government’s response. She said: “The announcement left more questions than answers. What we needed was a comprehensive package of financial support for people in dangerously clad homes. We needed to see those responsible for this mess held to account and made liable for paying. Instead we got a half-baked deal that puts more financial strain on families.”