Three quarters of all MPs support government paying for all building safety costs

26 April 2021

Three quarters (74%) of MPs including two thirds (66%) of Conservative MPs say the government should pay the costs of all building safety work upfront, and then claim it back later from those responsible - such as manufacturers and private developers - according to a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation.

This is the first measure of MPs’ opinion on the building safety crisis since a package of funding for safety remedial works was announced by the government on 10 February - which left social housing residents, not-for-profit landlords and many homeowners still picking up the costs.[i]

Looking at the impact of the Treasury’s funding package in more detail, the National Housing Federation has found:

  • The Treasury has made no additional money available for people on the lowest incomes in society, those living in social housing. Twelve of the biggest not-for-profit housing associations have already set aside £2.9bn – largely from social housing rents - to make their buildings safe and have had to cut plans for thousands of new social homes.
  • Leaseholders in medium and low-rise buildings will have to cover all the costs of cladding removal themselves, with support from government backed loans. Today’s poll reveals this loan scheme is unpopular with Conservative MPs – only 28% are in favour.
  • Homeowners in buildings of all heights still have to pay for fire safety works beyond removing and replacing cladding.[ii] Two-thirds of Conservative MPs say leaseholders should not pay any building safety costs.
  • The government introduced a levy on developers and a tax on their future high-rise developments, however they are still not responsible for any of the costs of the current crisis. 95% of MPs polled said that developers who built these homes should be responsible for the costs of making buildings safe.

The Treasury’s package includes £3.5bn additional funding for leaseholders to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings. However this is a fraction of the funding needed to make all buildings safe. For comparison, not-for-profit social landlords estimate they will have to spend in excess of £10bn to make all their buildings safe over the next decade.

Without additional funding from Treasury, housing associations are forced to divert billions of charitable funds away from the upkeep of existing social homes, investment in poorer communities and the building of new social housing. This far exceeds any action taken to claim back costs from developers who built these homes and manufacturers of dangerous cladding. Some private developers have recently voluntarily put aside money to pay for some safety costs; however this represents only a fraction of the costs falling on social landlords.

Meanwhile leaseholders will continue to receive bills in the tens of thousands of pounds for non-cladding related works. These works can be equal to the cost of removing cladding - as much as £40k per flat;[iii] whilst the loan scheme puts leaseholders with small deposits at risk of falling into negative equity if their property value falls in line with the value of the loan.

The National Housing Federation is urgently calling on the government to fund the upfront costs of all fire safety works on behalf of social housing providers and leaseholders and claim this money back from those responsible such as private developers and manufacturers, once works are completed.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“This poll shows that the overwhelming majority of MPs want the Treasury to pay for all the upfront costs of making buildings safe. Whilst it’s positive the Treasury has made more funding available; it doesn’t go far enough and leaves people starting out on the housing ladder, those on the lowest incomes in society and charities picking up most of the costs.  

“These defects are the result of a failure of regulation and poor practice from manufacturing and construction firms. Yet, the absence of funding for social landlords has essentially resulted in a stealth tax on housing associations and their residents which far exceeds any action against those responsible.

“The government is the only body with the power and resources to resolve this crisis. The only solution is for them to cover all the costs upfront and then claim these back from those responsible.”

[i] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-bring-an-end-to-unsafe-cladding-with-multi-billion-pound-intervention
[ii] The funding specifically covers any work to the external wall systems
[iii] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/901877/Draft_Building_Safety_Bill_Impact_Assessment_web.pdf 

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