UK govt demands housebuilders spend billions to fix dangerous cladding

The move could save homeowners tens of thousands on the costly alterations

UK Housing Secretary Michael Gove has given housebuilders until March to respond to a demand to pay the “full outstanding cost” of removing dangerous cladding from buildings, estimated to total £4 billion ($5.44 billion).

The government’s order to housebuilders, laid out in an open letter reported by UK media on Monday, seeks to end the stalemate between developers and owners over who is responsible for making properties safe.

“It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix problems they did not cause,” Gove said, outlining the new demands.

Campaigners have been calling on UK officials to force developers to make changes to buildings in the wake of the fatal 2017 Grenfell Tower blaze that killed more than 70 people. Following the tragedy, it was revealed that the cheap flammable cladding on Grenfell Tower was widely used on numerous flat blocks throughout the UK, forcing residents to make costly alterations or introduce around-the-clock fire safety measures.

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The new rules would compel developers to remove cladding on buildings that are between 11 and 18 meters (36 and 59 feet) high, saving tenants tens of thousands of pounds in bills.

If housebuilders refuse to accept responsibility for the cladding, the government has pledged to take all necessary steps to pressure them to do so. Potential action that could be taken includes restricting access to funding and future procurements.

The government’s letter to developers meets the request from campaigners for a £4 billion package to protect them against the extortionate costs of tackling cladding. However, activists urged Gove to expand the areas covered to other fire-safety issues, such as wooden balconies where “people are still facing life-changing costs.”

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