Why the Government must now act to solve the cladding crisis
The Government is now coming under fire from all directions for not acting swiftly and decisively to end the cladding crisis. Two select committees have slated the progress made to-date and the press continues to take the MHCLG to task. Now London Mayor Sadiq Khan has joined the fray and is urging the government to take steps to get leaseholders out of the ever-worsening financial trap they find themselves in. London is home to 63% of high rise buildings in the country and 55% of Londoners live in flats and maisonettes. There is real hardship for leaseholders out there and our Capital City is disproportionately affected.
Inside Housing reports today that the Mayor is calling on the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, to “unstick the flat sale market” and urging him to address a number of key points. He is urging the Government to:
- Put in place long-term funding that would protect leaseholders from remediation costs and ensure the Government covers the work required to make blocks safe where the costs can’t be recovered from building owners or the contractors who carried out the original works. The Mayor believes this would this would “give sellers, purchasers and lenders confidence in the market”.
- Replace the problematic EWS1 form and instead find an effective method to track down and force building owners to inspect and remediate buildings.
- Introduce a formal training and accreditation scheme to qualify additional chartered fire engineers at pace. A shortage of these professsionals able to carry out testing is slowing down the whole process. Those working in a similar role could be upskilled to tackle demand, said the Mayor.
- Urgently address the problems faced by fire engineers, who are are now struggling to get professional indemnity insurance. This must be dealt with quickly because without insurance cover, the whole system grinds to a halt.
- Introduce a formal programme to train and accredit more of these professionals and help those working in similar roles to upskill to tackle demand. This should be done in tandem with the insurance industry, to ensure there are clear standards of professional competence to guarantee that professional indemnity cover can be obtained by those with appropriate qualifications.
In the main, we completely agree with the Mayor. Tracking and tracing building owners is often far from simple and the government must be prepared to step in with cash where necessary. Leaseholders are not to blame for safety defects.The cladding crisis has gone on too long and the government still seems unaware of the scale of the problem, and the very real pain it is causing for thousands of flat owners around the country on a daily basis. There is clearly a conversation to be had with mortgage providers and insurers at the highest level. Lenders should be very clear on which buildings require an EWS1 form and which do not. This is a situation that will not simply resolve itself and greater Government intervention is now badly needed.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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