Spending Review submissions reveal common pleas from housing providers about building safety

National housing bodies have published their submissions to the Treasury, using this to reinforce the need to fund the costs of fixing fire safety defects in buildings across the country.

The government invited submissions from interest groups, individuals, and representative bodies to comment on government policy and suggest new ideas to feed into the Spending Review process. This process closed on 30 September and many organisations have published their responses.

The London Mayor’s 46-page submission seeks full funding for the removal of unsafe external wall systems from all affected buildings in London. He explained:

“The Mayor does not have a statutory role in setting or reforming the Building Regulations and the GLA does not have responsibility for Building Control. Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Mayor has done everything he can to improve the safety of buildings by using his powers directly or lobbying the government for change. But it is vital that unsafe cladding is removed from buildings in London and the costs are not incurred by residents.”

The National Housing Federation, representing housing associations asked the government to cover all building safety costs upfront and claim the costs back from those responsible for the defects. Their submission emphasised that money spent on remediation by housing associations means less money to spend “on building much needed new affordable homes or improving existing homes.”

The submission by the Chartered Institute of Housing is detailed in its consideration of building safety issues. It asks for more support to help social housing providers carry out works to make buildings safe and sets out how much is required.

“While we previously welcomed the £1.6 billion funding for the replacement of unsafe cladding on high-rise residential buildings in the social and private sectors, and the additional £10 million of funding per year for tailored building checks and inspections, we know now that this will not be enough to address the level of work needed. Costs are estimated to be in the region of £16 billion across the social and private rented sector.”

CIH also called for the government to review the Building Safety Fund: “To reflect the true cost of the work required to make buildings safe as many of the current issues are the result of a systemic failure of the previous building safety regulations.” Recognising the significant costs to housing organisations to implement the requirements in the Building Safety Bill, the CIH suggests that there should be a fund available to them.       

In London, the G15 group of housing associations, representing 650,000 homes across the capital, called on the government to protect leaseholders from building safety costs. In their submission they state:

“Collectively, the G15 is forecasting to spend £3.6bn on building safety works and activity by 2036, and members have already spent approximately £455m on these essential works since 2019.”

This is equivalent to building 72,000 new affordable homes.

The issue of paying VAT on building safety works is also covered in the G15 submission. They call for zero-rating on all future spend on building safety works, but also for it to be applied retrospectively. The G15 calculates that they would save £720 million that could be invested elsewhere in developing housing in London.

The Chancellor launched Spending Review 2021 (SR21) on 7 September, and it will conclude on 27 October 2021 alongside an Autumn Budget, setting out the government’s spending priorities for the parliament.

The three-year review will set UK government departments’ resource and capital budgets for 2022-23 to 2024-25 and the devolved administrations’ block grants for the same period.