11 Jan 2022
Chartered Institute of Housing head of policy and external affairs Rachael Williamson shares her thoughts.
I listened with interest to the Secretary of State’s statement on building safety to the House of Commons yesterday, and the impassioned discussion that followed.
As many have noted, while there are still elements of the building safety crisis not addressed by the announcement, it was a significant step forward and represents a clear policy shift from government.
The overall principal is right – leaseholders shouldn’t be left with the bill for a system-wide failure and those responsible should cover the costs. There should be a common sense approach to building safety, underpinned by transparency and accountability. Everyone should feel safe in their home and should know where to go if things go wrong.
However, the debate highlighted issues which need further attention. How will developers be forced to pay up? What about leaseholders in building under 11m and those who’ve already paid out significant sums? What about liability for non-cladding costs? What analysis has been made of the impact on future house building and what does this mean for social housing? And where does the social housing bill fit within all of this? (Highlighted in advance with the possibility of being fast tracked but no mention made in the announcement.)
As the National Housing Federation (NHF) have highlighted, in the absence of funding to address building safety issues, charitable housing associations have been left to pick up the bill. Latest estimates suggest they will spend £10bn on remediating homes where social renters live, impacting their ability to build more social housing and improve existing properties (which in turn undermines the equally important commitment to tackle climate change).
The government’s acknowledgement that more radical change is needed is welcome. But let’s make sure the cladding crisis doesn’t add to further pressure to the housing crisis – safety and supply should go hand in hand. Further assurance is needed on the detail to ensure clarity for leaseholders and the sector. We look forward to seeing it.