The UK government is to set up a £200m fund to replace dangerous cladding on more than 160 privately-owned apartment blocks after some of the freehold owners tried to pass the costs on to tenants.
James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had reversed the policy of making owners pay after it had become apparent that the long wait for action had caused an unacceptable level anxiety for residents.
He said: "What has been striking to me over recent weeks is just the time it is taking and my concern over the leaseholders themselves – that anxiety, that stress, that strain, and seeing that we are getting on and making these buildings safe."
He added: "Although temporary measures are in place to ensure people living in these buildings are safe, too many owners are treating this as a permanent fix. Others are trying to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds".
As well as being asked to pay the bill for cladding replacement, many owners of flats found that their investments were worth less than a tenth of what they had paid for it (see Further reading).
The use of aluminium composite cladding was identified as the main cause of the rapid spread of a fire in June 2017 at the Grenfell housing block in west London, in which 72 people died.
Grenfell United, an organisation formed in the wake of the tragedy, said the "nightmare" was "almost over" for people living in dangerous housing. The Labour Party said it was "astonishing" that government had waited two years before acting.
The latest government figures show that of 176 buildings fitted with aluminium cladding, only 10 had had theirs replaced.
Building owners will now have three months to claim the funds, with one condition being that they take "reasonable steps" to recover the costs from those responsible for the cladding’s presence.
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