BUDGET NEWS: £1BN BUILDING SAFETY FUND
Following the tragedy at Grenfell in 2017, Wednesday’s budget announced that a fund would be set up to remove dangerous cladding, of all forms, from high-rise buildings over 18 metres (six storeys).
The Government had previously announced £400M for social housing tower blocks with aluminium composite material (ACM) in 2018 and £200M for the private sector a year later, but had been under pressure to extend the fund to all forms of cladding – not just ACM. This means that the total fund now stands at £1.6BN. However, questions remain – will the fund be ‘enough’, should it apply to all properties and not only those over 18 metres, and how will the Government prioritise the work and allocate the resource?
The Government is also encouraging building owners to pursue contractors and warranty providers for compensation, which will be repaid to the Government. However, reports suggest that remedial work could exceed £10BN in the social housing sector alone – and so whilst the fund is a significant investment, the question remains, will it be enough?
The fund is only available for buildings in excess of 18 metres and the focus remains on ‘high-rise’ buildings. However, dangerous cladding exists on lower buildings too and is it right that these have been excluded?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said that it expects social housing providers who are already funding removal work to continue with this, without using these funds. This means that the funds can then be allocated to those who cannot afford the cost. However, it is not yet clear how the funds will be allocated and whether they will reach those most in need as quickly as possible.
The ‘cladding scandal’ has left many leaseholders in a precarious position – living in unsafe properties which cannot be sold. The fund is an acknowledgment of the severity of the Grenfell tragedy and the stress and anguish this has caused many residents. However, it’s only the start and there’s a long way to go.
RICS have led a cross-industry working group which has produced a standardised approach to the valuation of high-rise properties with actual or potentially combustible materials in external walls and balconies. All properties in excess of 18 metres will need an assessment on form EWS and this will be valid for 5 years.
If you own a flat in a high-rise building as described above, and if you are looking to re-mortgage or sell, you must ensure that this assessment is in place before proceeding. If not, the absence of the assessment could, at best, cause significant delays to your case, or, at worst, cause the sale or mortgage to fall through entirely.
For further information please contact our residential real estate experts.