Around £200m will be made available to remove and replace unsafe aluminium composite material cladding from around 170 privately owned high-rise buildings.
This step has been taken after private building owners failed to take action and tried to offload costs onto leaseholders.
Prime minister Theresa May said: “It is of paramount importance that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes.
“That’s why we asked building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure appropriate safety measures were in place.
“And we’ve seen a number of private building owners doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but unfortunately too many are continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.
“Today I can confirm we will now be fully funding the replacement of cladding on high-rise private residential buildings so residents can feel confident they are secure in their homes.”
Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said: “Although temporary measures are in place to ensure people living in these buildings are safe, too many owners are treating this as a permanent fix.
“Others are trying to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds.
“While some building owners have been swift to act, and I thank them for doing the right thing, I am now calling time on the delay tactics of others. If these reckless building owners won’t act, the government will.”
The government said it appreciates the work of Grenfell United and the UK Cladding Action Group, which have campaigned prominently, outlining the challenges in getting private building owners to fund the replacement of cladding on their homes.
The government has already announced it is to fully fund this work in social housing developments. However, private developers and freeholders have been slow to act and leaseholders have been threatened with significant, often unaffordable, costs resulting in delays.
The latest figures show that 166 private buildings are yet to start work on removing and replacing ACM cladding, compared to 23 in the social sector.
Building owners will have three months to access the new fund, and the government has said that it will look carefully at those who fail to remediate and consider what further action can be taken.
Building owners and developers who have already fully funded the remediation of buildings are Pemberstone, Aberdeen Asset Management, Barratt Developments, Fraser Properties, Legal & General, Mace, and Peabody.
Commenting on the announcement, the UK Cladding Action Group said: “It is clearly right that the government funds the removal of dangerous cladding, and we are glad ministers have finally recognised that – although it is a shame we have had to campaign so hard to force them to this point.
“While this will be a relief for thousands trapped in buildings with ACM cladding we must not forget the many, many leaseholders and social housing tenants living in blocks with other forms of unsafe cladding who will be excluded from this help.”
It added: “Fire does not distinguish between the different types of failed cladding out there. This inadequate response will be looked back on in shame when the next Grenfell tragedy occurs.
“The announcement effectively brands this is a cladding lottery. Life changing sums are still being demanded for interim fire measures. Some people win from today’s announcement. But many still lose and are mortgage prisoners.”
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “Almost two years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is quite frankly unacceptable that so many private tower blocks have been left with dangerous cladding, leaving thousands of people living in fear.
“We have been calling on the government to end this scandal now – so today’s announcement from the Prime Minister is very welcome.”
Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts, commented: “We fully support the Government’s intention to fund the replacement of ACM cladding on private sector buildings, something we have called for repeatedly over the last two years.
“We know very well the distress caused to leaseholders, faced with extortionate bills for remedial work and mitigating measures, who have been forced to live in potentially dangerous buildings while their freeholders sit on their hands.
“It is only regrettable that residents have had to wait so long for action to be taken.
“Leaseholders should never have been required to pay for the removal of dangerous materials for which they were not responsible, while those who have already been forced to pay should be also be reimbursed through the Government’s scheme.
“The Government must now get on with ensuring all high-rise residential buildings are made safe without any further delay.”
Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “This announcement will come as an enormous relief to leaseholders who are in no way to blame for the dangerous cladding on their homes. They have suffered for far too long.
“Since the LGA first raised their plight in 2017, we have been working with MHCLG to ensure the Treasury provided the necessary funding, and it is great that we have been listened to.
“Reputable developers have done the right thing and paid for buildings to be fixed, but it would be wrong if the taxpayer had to pay the bills of those developers and contractors who are responsible for this crisis.
“It is right therefore that, while the Government has committed to cover the cost temporarily, it has also said it will do everything in its power to ensure those responsible for the installation of unsafe cladding and insulation on their buildings, or indeed their insurers, eventually pay the full cost for its removal and replacement.”