Legislation to create a new Building Safety Regulator has finally started its passage through Parliament after lengthy consultation, but whilst the measures are to be welcomed there are still gaping holes in the Government’s plans to address building safety. For leaseholders facing enormous bills for remediation work that falls outside the scope of the provisions, the Bill will provide little comfort.

The Building Safety Bill, which was published in draft form last year, will bring in a raft of new measures including a new building safety charge which will sit outside of traditional service charges enabling leaseholders to see what they are paying for in their building. 

In a further boost to leaseholders, the Government confirmed this week that it has backtracked on earlier plans to allow building owners to charge for historic building deficiencies. This will be particularly welcome for shared owners who have gotten the thin end of the wedge for far too long.

A new homes ombudsman will help drive up quality and tackle some of the shoddy practices which have badly damaged the reputations of some housebuilders.

It’s all great news for people buying new homes, but none of this helps the myriad of problems building up for existing leaseholders or those renting in the social sector.

Why is the Government still dithering over fixing the cladding crisis which still blights the lives and financial security of so many?

Failure to move on the issue of buildings under 18m, has left thousands of people anxious and demoralised. Recent data from the Building Safety Fund suggests that nearly as many applications have been rejected as approved. This glacial pace of progress is understandably irking even the Government’s own backbenches, with Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland leading the criticism.

This is also hurting housing associations badly. Many small organisations that operate on very lean resources are being forced to choose between planned works and fire safety.

Over the last week, I’ve spoken to two housing association chief executives, both running organisations with fewer than 5000 homes, who are really concerned about their ability to invest in their stock while having to spend heavily on fire safety remediation with limited contributions from developers and manufacturers.

Fire safety absolutely has to be prioritised, but we risk many, many long term problems if we don’t invest in the upkeep of the nation’s social homes.

The decent homes standard is currently under review, but what many people in housing are now asking is whether this will be backed up with a new funding programme to make the standard meaningful. 

Dealing with dilapidation is more complex and costly than regular planned work. It’s a false economy to think that doing nothing doesn’t have a cost. 

 

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