600,000 people still trapped in ‘unsafe’ tower blocks

Following first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry, new analysis reveals increased levels of uncertainty over other potentially dangerous cladding materials.

New analysis from the Labour Party suggests up to 600,000 people across England face being trapped in unsafe or unsellable high-rise properties due to unclear guidance over cladding safety.

As reported by 24housing, yesterday’s report on Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry revealed “compelling evidence” of the tower being too dangerous to live in – with the principle reason of the rapid flames being that the ACM panels acted as a source of fuel.

Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the external walls of the Tower – the focal point of the refurbishment work – failed to comply with building regulations.

According to Labour’s recent analysis, not only are an estimated 600,000 still living in this ‘unsafe’ environment, thousands more could face being unable to sell or re-mortgage due to uncertainty over other potentially dangerous cladding materials.

As outlined, the wider issue affects all buildings above 18 metres that do not have the paperwork demanded by government’s ‘Advice Note 14’ on building safety.

The guidance is being interpreted as meaning that building owners must prove that the materials in use on their buildings are safe or provide evidence of a successful large-scale fire test, but in the absence of testing results being made by public by the government or others, this is often not known.

As a result, there are increasing reports of mortgage lenders, building insurers, and surveyors ‘zero-valuing’ swathes of tower block flats, creating a “generation of mortgage prisoners”, according to reports.

Labour has called on the government to “urgently publish” the results of government fire-safety tests on suspect cladding materials and set clear sanctions for block owners who fail to remove and replace dangerous cladding.

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Sarah Jones MP, said: “Two and a half years after Grenfell, uncertainty and inaction from Conservative ministers continues to drag innocent homeowners into the cladding scandal.

“Ministers still have no idea how many tower blocks are covered in suspect cladding, and they refuse to publish the results of essential fire tests first commissioned 20 months ago.

“The Conservatives simply do not care about keeping people safe in their homes, and are now sitting idly by while the entire market for high-rise flats grinds to a standstill.”

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP, added: “Conservative ministers have been off the pace at every stage since the terrible Grenfell Tower fire.

“More than two years on from Grenfell, concerned residents in blocks around the country are still stuck in limbo, unsure whether or not their home is safe and unable to sell.

“The government must now act to test suspect cladding, publish the results, and force private-block owners to remove and replace all cladding found to be unsafe.”

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