Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, the government established the Building Safety Programme to ensure the safety of people and their homes. Housing associations have worked hard to assess safety risks and take urgent action to remediate buildings where needed.
This has included identifying, removing and replacing dangerous category 3 ACM cladding – the type used on Grenfell Tower – as well as identifying and remediating other types of cladding and other safety risks, in line with government guidance. Housing associations have also put urgent temporary measures in place to ensure residents are safe before and during remediation work.
In this section, you will find information on:
We have put together information for leaseholders and shared owners on EWS1 forms and remedial works.
On 21 July 2021, the government published a statement from a group of independent experts on building safety in medium and lower-rise blocks of flats. It advocated a proportionate, risk-based and affordable approach to managing safety risks in buildings 11-18m, including the use of mitigation methods. The advice also referred to evidence on the risk of fire in these buildings, and promised further work later this year on the extent to which cladding needs to be replaced in these buildings, or whether risks can be mitigated instead.
The statement also referred to the government’s plans over the coming months to withdraw its advice on remediation is contained in the document: building safety advice for building owners, including fire doors (updated November 2020). The document will be replaced by a Publicly Available Standard on external wall assessment (PAS 9980), currently being developed by the British Standards Institute, as well as Home Office guidance on the Fire Safety Order.
The NHF is gathering feedback from our members on what the statement means for your remedial works programmes and will share further information from government on its evidence gathering in due course.
The government has also published guidance on the remediation of unsafe non-ACM buildings. This includes information on how to apply to the Building Safety Fund.
We have been arguing for a risk-based approach to prioritising building safety remediation work in existing buildings. We therefore welcome the government’s statement on remediating lower and medium rise buildings according to risk through the use of mitigation methods where this is appropriate.
However, we would also like to see a risk-based approach to remediating high-rise buildings that have building safety concerns. This approach recognises that there are other factors beyond a building’s height that affect its risk profile, and would enable limited resources and capacity in our sector and those we work with to be focused first on those buildings that need them most urgently. We are calling on the government to coordinate all the resources necessary to remediate and direct them first to buildings that need them most. We are also calling for the Building Safety Fund deadlines to be more flexible to allow housing associations to remediate high-rise buildings that present a greater risk, as a priority. As it stands, an unintended consequence of Building Safety Fund conditions is that buildings with leaseholders, as opposed to social housing tenants, may be prioritised for remedial works.
The government held a call for evidence on fire safety risk prioritisation in existing buildings between January and February 2020, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the complexity of building risk to ensure an appropriate level of safety is achieved.
We submitted a response to the call for evidence, in which we argued that assessing building risk should take other factors into account besides height and the need to focus resources efficiently at those buildings that need them most, especially given the diversity of the homes we provide and the scale of potential remedial works. We are calling on the government to publish its findings from this consultation.
There are currently two main government funds open to housing associations to fund the remediation and replacement of unsafe cladding systems.
The government announced on 16 May 2018 that it would fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on social residential buildings of 18m or over, owned by housing associations, with costs estimated at £400m. This is part of an overall £600m pot of funding available to both the social and private sectors.
98% of buildings in the social housing sector that are eligible for the fund have either started or completed remediation. However, the government has kept the fund open, as it reduced the height threshold for eligible buildings to 17.7m to bring it in line with the Building Safety Fund.
Read the government’s guidance on how housing associations can apply for this funding.
In 2020, the government announced a new £1bn fund for the removal and replacement of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on buildings that are 17.7m and over. The prospectus for the Fund was published in May 2020, confirming – following the NHF’s engagement with the government – that costs would be covered for leaseholders in both the social and private sectors.
In February 2021, the government increased the Building Safety Fund to £3.5bn. The deadline for claims from the Fund was 30 June 2021 and remedial works must have started on site by 30 September. However, MHCLG has confirmed it will take a case-by-case approach to assessing claims where these deadlines cannot be met, and that it will reopen the Fund later in 2021 for eligible buildings that had previously not submitted claims prior to the deadline.
The NHF has been raising housing associations’ challenges in meeting the deadline for starting works on site, despite working as quickly as possible to inspect buildings and secure contractors for the works. MHCLG will still expect organisations claiming from the Fund to provide realistic but ambitious project delivery timetables and will consider enforcement action where they believe progress is too slow. The NHF will keep calling for a flexible approach to these deadlines, and for the government to coordinate the resources needed to remediate buildings and apply them on a risk basis.
Please see the government’s updated guidance for more information on the Building Safety Fund.
There have been widely reported issues with mortgage lenders providing zero valuations for properties in multi-occupied buildings with potential safety risks, leaving leaseholders unable to remortgage or sell their homes.
In response to this issue, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) led a cross-industry working group to develop a standardised process for valuing properties in tall buildings of 18m or over with actual or potential combustible materials in external wall systems or on balconies.
The External Wall Fire Review process required a fire safety assessment to be conducted by a suitably qualified and competent professional, who must complete an External Wall System (EWS) form for each building. A number of issues arose as a result, such as EWS1 forms being routinely requested for multi-occupied buildings regardless of their height or the presence of combustible materials.
RICS subsequently updated their guidance in April 2021, setting out which specific buildings would need an EWS1 form as part of the evaluation process. However, on 21 July 2021, the government announced that it did not believe buildings under 18m should require an EWS1 form and any already provided for these buildings should be reviewed. We understand that RICS may further update its guidance, but it is unlikely to do so until the government withdraws its advice note on safety risks in multi-occupied, multi-storey buildings. The government has committed to do so later this year.
We are engaging with the government, the sector, the wider industry and leaseholder groups to understand the current situation and what this means for valuing, selling and purchasing flats in multi-occupied buildings. We will keep calling for the government to provide upfront funding for all remedial works, as the ultimate solution to this issue.
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