Building Safety Bill: mixed response from NHF

The long-awaited Building Safety Bill setting out the legislation for the new building safety regulatory regime to ensure the safety of people and their homes, has left lots of questions unanswered.

The National Housing Federation welcomed the Bill, but has called for more clarity and help for social landlords and shared owners facing huge bills to remediate residential buildings. They fear that billions of pounds could be diverted away from building new homes, to be spent on safety work.

The Bill introduces significant changes to building safety regulation, as recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and introduces the new Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new safety regime. Responding to the publication of the Bill, Victoria Moffett, Head of Building and Fire Safety Programmes at the National Housing Federation said: “We welcome the publication of the Bill as an important milestone. It is the next step in overhauling the building safety regulatory system to make sure a tragedy like the fire at Grenfell Tower never happens again.

“It’s positive to see the Government acknowledge that private developers are ultimately responsible for the poor workmanship which has led to so many safety issues. And, that these developers should therefore cover the costs of the work, rather than homeowners or those in social housing.

“But many questions remain about what will happen in practice. Giving leaseholders longer to pursue private developers for compensation could help some people, but unfortunately not everyone who is struggling to pay enormous building safety bills. There was also no announcement about other financial support for leaseholders today.

“The Government has rightfully made it a legal requirement for building owners to pursue all other options before passing any building safety costs on to leaseholders. Not-for-profit HAs have already been doing this but we are concerned to hear of cases where they have not been successful and  associations will have no other choice but to still pass on costs to homeowners or shared owners in their buildings.

“There was also no funding for HAs remediating social housing announced today. Charitable associations have so far been unable to access existing Government funds. They are already diverting billions of pounds away from the upkeep of their social homes and away from building new social housing in order to make safe homes they bought in good faith.

“If the Government want to avoid bills being passed on to homeowners and fewer affordable homes getting built over the next decade, they will need to cover all building safety costs upfront and claim the costs back later from the companies they acknowledge are responsible – such as private developers.”

By Patrick Mooney, Editor