It has been more than three years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy stopped a nation in its tracks. We woke to simply horrific scenes playing out on live TV of a tower block in one of the richest boroughs of London being ripped apart by fire. 72 people lost their lives, many more were injured both physically and mentally.
Since that day, investigations shed light on the dangerous cladding material that was used as part of the renovations of that building. Cladding that has also been used on thousands of other tall buildings around the country. The Government had pledged to replace the cladding on thousands of buildings as soon as possible. Fast forward to 2021 and there remain far too many buildings still with dangerous cladding and thousands of families effectively trapped in homes that are unable to sell because of it.
Today the Government announced a fresh round of funding, as well as a loan scheme and a new tax plan to raise more money to pay for the costs of removal.
That is the amount of new cash that has been announced today by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. That is in addition to the £1.6bn announced last year. This cash is to be used to pay for the removal and replacement of the dangerous cladding that was identified on the Grenfell Tower that many tall buildings around the country still have fitted.
Crucially, this new money will apply to buildings that are 18m tall and above. Whilst this will cover a significant number of buildings, it does also rule out smaller dwellings that fall just short of that measurement. Instead, the Government has announced a new loan scheme for these smaller towers, with the promise that homeowners will never have to pay back more than £50 per month. So, if you live in a 18m+ building this is all done for free, anything less and you’ll have to pay for it via a loan.
Commentators have already pointed out that dangerous cladding is not the only threat to the safety of thousands of buildings, and that more money should have been put aside to pay to replace other problematic products, such as faulty fire doors. There is still a significant chance that many homes with unsafe products will still be rendered worthless until significant upgrades are made. But these are likely to fall on the homeowner to pay for, which may not be possible, leaving the owners of the properties in a very hard situation.
In addition to the new cash, Mr Jenrick announced that there would be a new levy introduced on builders of tall buildings as well as a new tax on residential property development from 2022 to help pay for the replacement work. Whilst these taxes many generate money for the Government, as with most cost increases, they will be recovered by the businesses affected by passing those costs on to the consumer.
Reaction to the announcement has been met with a fairly significant backlash.
“Too little, too late”
Calls to do more have been almost constant. Various reports, investigations and allegations only pile more pressure on authorities to act. It was clear that with Grenfell, and many other tall buildings, it wasn’t just defective cladding that was the issue. There have now been a variety of products identified that post serious risks to building safety. However, the money announced previously and today will not be used for anything other than cladding replacement.
Reaction has been coming in from a great number of sources today. Perhaps though the one that has hit home the most is the reaction from campaign group Grenfell United, who posted a series of tweets earlier on in the day to express how they felt about this announcement:
THREAD— Grenfell United (@GrenfellUnited) February 10, 2021
For over three and a half years we’ve been raising the alarm that 1000s of people are living in unsafe homes and another Grenfell could happen at any time. It’s heartbreaking to say but once again today’s announcement is too little, too late. 1/
Residents living in unsafe homes will go to bed tonight worrying if their building will qualify or be left out once again. And bereaved and survivors of Grenfell will lay awake fearful that what happened to us could still happen again. 3/— Grenfell United (@GrenfellUnited) February 10, 2021
Too little, too late does appear to be the recurring theme from many responding to today’s news. Whilst any extra help will be welcomed, it’s clear that what has been announced will still be nowhere near enough to replace and upgrade all of the problem products identified across thousands of tall buildings across the country.
Whether any more money is announced in the coming years time will only tell. But as of the time of publication of this article, there will still be many thousands of people who will go to bed tonight still feeling unsafe and trapped in a home without value, which is also putting them in danger.
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