The government has officially launched its £1 billion Building Safety Fund, its much-discussed fund to cover the costs of removing unsafe cladding from high-rise residential blocks.
The fund will cover the cost of removing unsafe non-ACM cladding on residential buildings that are 18 metres and over and do not comply with building regulations.
While the fund will be aimed predominantly towards the private sector, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that it will also be available to leaseholders living in social housing.
The government has also published new statutory guidance that will make sprinklers and consistent wayfinding signage mandatory in all new high-rise buildings over 11 metres tall.
The housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I will not accept any excuses from building owners who have yet to take action and those responsible should register for the fund so that they can start the remediation process immediately.
“New statutory guidance published today also means that all new residential buildings over 11 metres tall will be fitted with sprinkler systems. This is another critical part of our commitment to delivering the biggest changes to building safety for a generation.”
The launch of the Building Safety Fund raises government funding for remediation to £1.6 billion, as the £1 billion fund joins the £600 million already announced for replacing ACM cladding systems.
The launch comes as numerous Northern mayors and council leaders have joined the government in pledging to continue building safety work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building safety minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “Now that this additional £1 billion funding is in place, building owners must crack on with removing flammable cladding on all high-rise residential buildings that are over 18 metres.
“The government will work with the Mayor of London and our metro mayors as well as local councils to ensure that these vital building safety works are finally carried out, so that people are safe in their homes.”
Some local leaders criticised the government’s handling of the Building Safety Fund prior to its launch, saying it does not go far enough to make all high-rise residential buildings safe.
Last week the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force warned that high-rise buildings alone in Greater Manchester may need a quarter of the fund to fix.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority body has also raised concerns about the fund’s ‘arbitrary and ineffective’ 18 metre height threshold after a series of fires in buildings below that height.
Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, tweeted in response to the launch: “A good step forward but, as ever, devil will be in the detail. Need to make sure ALL buildings with any unsafe cladding and, crucially, their leaseholders can access this fund and that it’s sufficient.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said it is ‘really good news’ that the government will cover the costs of replacing cladding for all leaseholders, including in the social housing sector.
“The cost of ensuring all buildings are safe in a post-Grenfell environment is significant – and is still growing as we understand the scale of work required to replace cladding, install sprinklers and fix compartmentation,” Henderson said.
Henderson added that housing associations are currently having to make ‘difficult decisions’ to prioritise safety works, including redirecting funds away from building new social housing and investing in existing homes.
The Building Safety Fund will begin accepting applications from leaseholders next week starting from Monday 1 June 2020.