The building safety crisis is one of the biggest scandals in the housing sector in decades. As I wrote in my newsletter last week, an estimated 11 million people around the country are living in unsafe homes, and progress to fix these issues has been glacially slow.
This week I put my name to two amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that would protect leaseholders from the incredible burden this crisis has placed on their shoulders.
In response to growing pressure from campaigners and politicians, the Government announced on Wednesday an additional 3.5bn of funding to remediate buildings over 18 metres high, but that leaseholders in buildings below this or six stories, would have to take out loans costing £600 a year.
While additional funding is welcome, this announcement comes too late for many of the first-time buyers who have already gone bust, and still excludes the majority of those affected from support.
Progress has been too slow. Over 100 buildings in Birmingham have applied to the Building Safety Fund, yet not one has received a drop of money so far. Meanwhile, leaseholders in Edgbaston continue to pay for stopgap safety measures that have already cost them more than £200,000.
I am also concerned that the 18 metre threshold for funding is arbitrary, when really we need remediation works prioritised by risk.
In 2019 Richmond House in London burned down in just nine minutes. Not a single flat was saved. Yet, because this building was below 18 metres, under the Government's proposals it would not be eligible for funding to make it safe.
Ministers have promised on 17 separate occasions that leaseholders wouldn’t have to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause. A cladding tax on leaseholders breaks that promise.
Almost seven months after the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, launched his ‘Plan for Jobs’, 81,710 people in Birmingham are claiming out of work benefits with a further 68,487 people still being furloughed by their employers.
With the furlough scheme due to end in April, thousands of people’s jobs could be on the line, including 5,600 people in Edgbaston.
Businesses and workers need certainty, and can’t wait until the Budget to get it. That’s why this week I have called for a “smart” furlough scheme to help tackle the jobs crisis.
Exempt accommodation has grown by almost 25% in just 12 months in Birmingham.
This type of accommodation is supposed to provide housing, care and supervision for some of our most vulnerable citizens. But it is a growing concern as the range and quality of some providers, in this largely unregulated sector, varies wildly.
There are now over 18,500 units of this type of housing across the city and the problem is growing. Birmingham City Council Scrutiny Committee has launched an inquiry to look into this sector and have put out a call for evidence.
They want to hear from both residents and members of the community where exempt accommodation exists to better understand what improvements need to be made either directly by the City Council or from the Government.
If you would like to give your views, please click below and follow the guidance to submit your information by Friday 19 February.