Our statement on the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire

On the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, we continue to send our love and support to the bereaved, residents, survivors and the wider community. Your fight is our fight.

Home is the place where we should feel most safe and yet today, hundreds of thousands of homes are still unsafe. The Government admits that more than 10,000 mid- and high-rise buildings across the country still have life-critical defects and are awaiting remediation. In addition, there is an unknown quantity of low-rise buildings (under 11 metres) with defects that need to be remediated or mitigated.

Very little has moved forward since the last anniversary, and the national building safety crisis that was revealed in the aftermath of Grenfell remains far from solved. Despite our continuous campaigning, there is still an utter lack of urgency to resolve this crisis and to free the hundreds of thousands of innocent leaseholders and tenants who are trapped.

Despite the partial “protections” for leaseholders that were introduced in the Building Safety Act a year ago, far too many leaseholders still remain on the hook for life-changing costs to make buildings safe. The Government may have done enough to placate backbenchers and convince some of the general public with claims that the legislation would “end” the cladding scandal. But those living in unsafe buildings know the truth. We are still paying the price for a decades-long collective failure of state and industry.

We continue to call on the Government to take a firm grip of the situation and move beyond piecemeal funding schemes toward a comprehensive solution for all leaseholders. The Government must step up and close the funding gap for every unsafe building where remediation work is not already covered by developers or building owners – for all types of building safety defect and all heights of building. They can use their ability and resources to recover costs from other parties; it makes no sense in the context of a widespread national scandal for leaseholders to have to do this on a building-by-building basis.

If funding is not assured for all buildings, taking a full “building” approach with no exclusions, then work to make homes safe will be delayed or never happen, leaving people at risk of both fire and financial ruin. It is as simple as that. Ireland’s government has recently committed to 100% remediation funding for
apartment blocks
which sets a clear precedent that our government could and should follow.

Michael Gove has stated that all leaseholders are blameless, so there must be an end to the arbitrary distinction that has deemed certain leaseholders to be “non-qualifying” and therefore left them facing uncapped costs. Even “qualifying” leaseholders face capped costs which are entirely unfair and may still lead to financial ruin for many already struggling to keep up with soaring costs for mortgage payments, building insurance and other communal charges in a wider cost-of-living crisis. It is our firm view that no leaseholder should pay a penny to fix this crisis.

Work to make buildings safe is happening at a snail’s pace and could take decades, therefore we must see remediation happen at a much quicker pace going forward, with a clear deadline and firm consequences for developers and building owners that continue to delay the process of making our homes safe.

There must also be a binding Code of Conduct for how remediation work is respectfully carried out while people are still living in their homes – as residents are effectively living on a building site, sometimes for years – and there must be consequences for contractors not meeting those standards.

In the meantime, we still need firm action to unlock the market for buying and selling homes, to enable people to move on with their lives after being trapped for so long. Some leaseholders desperately need to move home – to relocate for work, move in with a partner, or to upsize and allow their families to grow in a safe space. Despite the announcement from banks that they would now lend on affected properties, this is not the reality for most. In our recent survey, 79% of leaseholders said they could not remortgage or their potential buyer could not get a mortgage. This deadlock is simply not good enough.

Specific measures also need to be taken swiftly to support leaseholders on limited incomes, who bought homes via government-backed schemes such as Shared Ownership and Help to Buy but are now completely trapped. The Government has no solution for this. We want to see buyback schemes made available to shared owners, who are least able to bear the continued delay in buildings being made safe.

The Government could still rescue innocent leaseholders and could restore much-needed certainty and confidence to the housing market by stepping into the shoes of all leaseholders and taking their place in the “waterfall” of who pays for building safety. If the Government had confidence in its own words that only a “vanishingly small tail” of leaseholders will have to pay anything (see Q99), then it would take that step. The fact that it has not yet done so speaks volumes about its priorities and ability to tackle this crisis.

Promises have been made, but promises have not been kept. Ministers will say “never again” on the anniversary of the catastrophic events at Grenfell, but action on the ground to make homes safe and to ensure that those responsible are made to pay still remains a distant dream. Leaseholders and tenants of dangerous buildings shouldn’t have to bear the weight of putting regulatory and industry failures right, but together we will continue to hold government and industry to account and will keep pushing for a resolution for all.

End Our Cladding Scandal

The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign calls on the Government to lead an urgent, national effort to fix the building safety crisis.

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