Taxpayer 'could back mortgages' for owners of flats with cladding
9th July 2021

Taxpayer ‘could underwrite mortgages to solve post-Grenfell housing crisis for homeowners in flats with cladding’

  • Bosses of Lloyds, Natwest, HSBC and Barclays at Downing Street this week 
  • Cladding at fault for fire in 2017 at London tower block that left 72 people dead 
  • Work to remove it from other blocks has created huge bills for homeowners 

Ministers have held talks with some of the UK’s largest mortgage lenders about underwriting home loans for people in homes affected by the post-Grenfell disaster cladding crisis.

Representatives of Lloyds, Natwest, HSBC and Barclays were among those at a meeting at Downing Street earlier this week to find a solution to a problem that has affected hundreds of thousands of people.

Rule changes brought in after the fire in 2017 that left 72 people dead have seen many trapped in homes with flammable cladding unable to move on because of a lack of finance.

It came after a former Bank of England economist warned that the scandal could lead to the next banking crisis if leaseholders are forced to pay for repairs.

According to the Financial Times the meeting – which was attended by Boris Johnson –  discussed whether the Government could underwrite mortgages affected, potentially putting the taxpayer on the hook for millions of pounds. 

Rule changes brought in after the fire in 2017 that left 72 people dead have seen many trapped in homes with flammable cladding unable to move on because of a lack of finance.

It came after a former Bank of England economist warned that the scandal could lead to the next banking crisis if leaseholders are forced to pay for repairs.

This week it was revealed up to 70 per cent of fire-trap flats may not be covered by new powers to sue developers over building safety failures.

A Bill extending the period during which building firms can face legal action over ‘shoddy workmanship’ from six to 15 years after construction was published on Tuesday by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

But a snap poll by the UK Cladding Action Group found 239 out of 330 buildings surveyed with fire safety defects are too old to qualify. 

Leaseholders in 79 blocks said they could sue in principle because their homes were built after 2006 but few could afford it.

Mr Jenrick had claimed the ‘lion’s share’ of buildings with dangerous cladding would be covered by the new law.

Earlier this year Mr Jenrick set aside £5billion to replace unsafe cladding on buildings above 18 metres (60ft) in height.

But hundreds of thousands of families living in lower blocks face bills of up to £600 a year.

Meanwhile, all affected leaseholders still face average costs of £25,600 each to fix non-cladding related defects.  

The Government has identified 419 high-rise buildings with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. It says 216 have been fixed.

But it still has not given a firm estimate of how many buildings have other forms of dangerous cladding.

In March ex-BoE economist Dean Buckner said widespread mortgage defaults could spark a Northern Rock-style run on the banks.

His dire warning came after campaigners told the Commons Housing Select Committee that ministers needed to ask them for a spreadsheet of building safety data because they ‘had no handle’ on the scandal themselves.

In January Boris Johnson warned banks they must not refuse mortgages on homes with cladding that are ‘perfectly safe’. 

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