Documents to download

Relevant Library publications

The Library has published a number of briefings relevant to this debate.

Remediation of high-rise blocks

Leasehold high-rise flats: Who pays for fire safety work? (January 2023) gives an overview of the government response to remediating combustible cladding and other fire safety issue on high rise blocks. Section 4.3 covers the impact of remediation work on social landlords.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee is currently taking evidence as part of its inquiry into the financial sustainability of social housing. During an evidence session on 12 June 2023 (PDF) several witnesses commented on the impact of fire and other safety work on social landlords’ finances. Fiona Fletcher-Smith (chair of G15 which represents housing associations operating in London) addressed funding for safety measures:  

[…] Government grant is available under the waterfall method, where first of all, through the great work of the Secretary of State, we chase the developer and we get them to pay. Secondly is the availability of Government grant under the building safety funds, but that is for blocks with leaseholders. If it is a block that is entirely social rented, there is no funding available. It is not necessarily the fault of the housing association or their residents, but we are the ones that have to make up that shortfall in funding and we have to pay for it.

In the case of G15, out of the £6 billion, we will be paying just over £4 billion […] It is not fair that the social rented residents are facing that bill when leaseholders are not, because there is grant available, but that is just where we are on this. Therefore, we have to have an income stream to pay for it and one of the income streams, along with borrowing, is rent.

Kate Henderson (chief executive of the National Housing Federation) said the cost of building safety had compromised the future viability of some members:  

For example, Tower Hamlets Community Housing, because of those building safety costs and because there is not funding for remediation, is no longer viable as an individual organisation and it will need to look for a partner to merge with. There are huge pressures on the sector.

There are two Library casework pages which provide an overview of how leaseholder protections work in relation to fire remediation work: Help with paying for historical fire safety work: high-rise blocks (England) (June 2023) and lenders’ requirements for an External Wall System Fire Review certificate: The Cladding External Wall System (EWS) (June 2023).

Changes to building and fire safety regulations

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, the government commissioned the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (the Hackitt review) and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s phase 2 report has not yet been published; it is expected to be published in 2024.

In line with the recommendations of the Hackitt review and the Inquiry’s phase 1 report, the following legislation was introduced:

  • The Building Safety Act 2022 which, among other things, intends to strengthen the compliance and enforcement regime governing the construction and refurbishment of buildings. 
  • The Act also creates a new regulatory regime for the construction and refurbishment of higher-risk buildings (that are 18 or more metres, or 7 or more storeys). This new regime will be overseen by the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) which sits within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • The Fire Safety Act 2021 which clarified that, in a shared block of flats, the designated responsible person for fire safety also has to consider the building’s structure, external walls and flat entrance doors in their fire risk assessments.

Two Library briefings provide further information on the changes the government made to building and fire safety regulations. They also set out which changes have already taken effect and which changes the government has not yet brought into force:

Social housing

Social Housing Reform in England: What Next? (March 2023) covers government proposals to “rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords.” The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, which will implement many of the reforms described in this paper, is currently completing its parliamentary stages. There is a Library paper on the Bill which was updated prior to the Commons report stage on 1 March 2023: Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [HL] 2022-23: Progress of the Bill.

A new clause 1 was added to the Bill on report to provide for ‘Awaab’s law.’ This refers to the case of two-year old Awaab Ishak who died in 2020 due to prolonged exposure to mould in his social rented home. Dehenna Davison described the purpose of the new government clause (c825):

We will take a power for the Secretary of State to set out in secondary legislation requirements for landlords to rectify hazards or rehouse residents within a certain time. Our new clause will empower tenants to challenge their landlords for inaction. It inserts an implied covenant into tenancy agreements that landlords will comply with the requirements prescribed in regulations. This will empower landlords to deal with hazards such as damp and mould in a timely fashion, knowing that if they fail to do so they can face a legal challenge from residents.

It is crucial that any new measures to address the issues of damp, mould and other hazards putting residents’ health at risk are proportionate and evidence-based and deliver the right outcomes for social residents in the long term. That is why we intend to consult on these new requirements, including time limits, within six months of Royal Assent and to lay the secondary legislation as soon as possible thereafter.

Other new government clauses were added to the Bill to “ensure that the Regulator of Social Housing sets standards for landlords and provides tenants with information about how to make complaints and about their rights as tenants”.

Dehenna Davison said that in response to campaigning work by Grenfell United and Shelter, and in response to the death of Awaab Ishak, the government had tabled amendments “to deliver qualification requirements to improve the experience of social housing tenants” (c826).

Committee reports and government responses

Further reading

UK Health Security Agency, Environmental monitoring following the Grenfell Tower fire, June 2022

National Audit Office (NAO), Investigation into remediating dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings, June 2020

Grenfell Recovery Task Force, Fifth report from the Independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, March 2020

Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Phase 1 report, October 2019

MHCLG, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Hackitt review, May 2018

Documents to download

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