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Grenfell tragedy three years on: 2,000 buildings still fire risk

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Three years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, 2,000 residential buildings still have dangerous cladding, a finding the House of Commons housing committee said was “deeply shocking and completely unacceptable”.

The group of MPs want the government to take control of the freehold of any building which faces a serious fire risk if work has not been started by December 2020.

In a report carried out by the housing, communities and local government committee on the progress of cladding remedial work, it said the government’s £1bn building safety fund would only be enough to fix a third of the buildings that have been identified as high risk.

A list of restrictions attached to the fund which dictated who could apply to use the funds was the government’s attempt to “find ways to fit a £3bn liability into a £1bn funding pot”, said the committee.

The rules around the safety fund mean social housing providers are excluded along with any applications where remedial work began before March 2020.

The committee said a sum of closer to £15bn was needed to address all fire safety defects in every high-risk residential building.

The fire broke out in the Grenfell Tower, north Kensington, on 14 June 2017 killing 72 residents. After the fire, it was discovered the tower was wrapped in aluminium composite material (ACM), a highly flammable and dangerous cladding system.

More than 450 high rise residential or other publicly-owned buildings in England were found to have the same ACM cladding system. According to the report, over 300 properties are still wrapped in this material and many thousands of buildings of all heights have some form of combustible cladding, insulation or fire defect such as a timber balcony or faulty fire doors.

Without the provision of additional funding MPs warn residents face “life changing bills” to fix a problem that was not their fault.

The physical and mental health strain of families living in high rise flats at risk of serious fire damage and the anxiety caused by being left with an unsellable home should be treated as a “public health crisis”.

NHS support should be offered to homeowners, said MPs.

To take control of flats from freeholders or local authorities unwilling or unable to repair buildings, the committee wants the government to set up a national body that would step in and seize the buildings under a Compulsory Purchase Order and manage the repair of the unsafe homes.

Once the buildings have been made safe, the committee wants to see the properties converted to commonhold, which allows homeowners to own the freehold of individual flats and houses that are part of an estate.