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Welsh government to buy leaseholder properties hit by cladding scandal

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The Welsh government has pledged to buy properties from leaseholders in unsafe buildings who can’t sell and can’t afford the costs of keeping them safe.

The Leaseholder Support Scheme will help individual leaseholders who find themselves in “significant financial hardship” due to escalating costs associated with fire safety issues, according to Julie James, Welsh minister for climate change.

The scheme will allow qualifying leaseholders to sell their property and, where appropriate, provide the option for them to either move on or rent the property back.

James said: “We have worked with partners and sector experts to identify an appropriate route for property valuation, clear eligibility criteria, and to create a comprehensive property purchase process. My officials continue to progress this work at pace to enable the first applications to be invited in June this year.”

It comes as the Welsh government earmarked £375m for repair work to make medium and high rise buildings safe, double the population share of what the UK government plans to spend in equivalent areas in England in this period, according to James.

Repairs will not just be limited to cladding replacement, but will focus on the whole building.

James said: “This whole-building approach puts people’s safety first, but is more complex than one which only deals with cladding. It is also more expensive.”

The investment includes the Welsh Building Safety Fund, which is currently focused on clarifying the scale of the problem and addressing fire safety defects in eligible buildings.

James said there have been more than 100 buildings identified where further intrusive surveys are needed to establish the fire safety work needed.

She said: “I have always maintained the position that the industry should step-up to their responsibilities.  A number of developers have already undertaken works at their own expense. This sets an example to the others that continue to shirk their responsibilities.

“I have also said repeatedly that leaseholders should not have to pick up the bill to make good their buildings, having met many leaseholders and residents affected by the building safety crisis, and have heard first-hand how these issues are impacting their lives.”

Reform of Welsh building safety

At the same time there will be fundamental reform of the building safety regime in Wales, including the establishment of a Joint Inspection Team.

The Joint Inspection Team in Wales will work in partnership with local authorities, and fire and rescue authorities.

James said the recruitment of the strategic lead for the Joint Inspection Team is being prioritised.

She added: “I fully appreciate that for those living in affected buildings we do not seem to be working fast enough, but I must stress that we are taking every opportunity to progress our wider Building Safety Programme.

“This includes developing UK-wide solutions where this approach aligns with our policy intent and vision as set out in our white paper.

“We are working closely with the UK government to apply aspects of the Building Safety Bill to Wales. This relates specifically to reforms improving the design, construction and renovation of high risk buildings.”