New scheme launched to help leaseholders affected by fire safety issues
A new support scheme for people facing significant financial hardship as a result of fire safety issues will launch today.
The new scheme will provide tailored, independent advice to leaseholders in affected homes.
It is currently targeted at leaseholders who are owner occupiers and those who have become displaced residents, but the Minister confirmed applications would be monitored and eligibility kept under review to ensure ‘those who need support most have access to the scheme’.
Since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 and the subsequent revelation of widespread dangerous building defects, thousands of leaseholders have faced huge bills to fix their homes leaving them at risk of homelessness or bankruptcy.
The Welsh government has previously made £10.5m available to remove unsafe cladding for homes in the social sector but according to campaigners, some leaseholders are facing bills in excess of £50,000 each for their unsellable, fire defective properties.
The Minister said: “Today, we are launching the Leaseholder Support Scheme which will help those who need support the most.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the external partners and sector experts who have assisted us in developing this scheme at pace.
“Their support and hard work have been critical to establishing the right qualifying criteria and support processes.”
All leaseholders eligible for this scheme will now receive advice from an Independent Financial Adviser, with the costs fully covered by the Welsh Government.
The advice will support them in making the right choice for them and, if the sale of their property is the right route, the Welsh Government will enable them to sell their property at a fair market value.
Full guidance on the scheme, including the eligibility criteria, will be published on the Welsh Government website.
The Minister continued: “Addressing fire safety defects in medium and high-rise buildings must go beyond cladding to make these buildings as safe as they can be.
“This has been our premise from the outset and, although it makes identifying, addressing and resolving issues significantly more complex, it is the right approach.
“There are no quick or easy fixes, but we cannot compromise on achieving the right, sustainable solutions.
“Anything less leaves the door open to the risk of further issues arising and it is important to me that, once these issues are resolved, they remain resolved.
“We must do this properly, to get it right now and for the future.”
Off the hook
Responding to today’s announcement, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “This announcement will help a very small number of people and continues to let property developers off the hook. Homeowners must see urgent action to make their buildings safe and the Welsh Government is still failing to do that.
“We have been campaigning on this issue for so long now and unfortunately it has become quite clear that there has been a lack of active engagement and communication with homeowners by Welsh Labour that has exacerbated the frustration that people feel with the situation.
“We cannot continue to have people living in unsafe buildings across Wales going to bed every night fearing for their safety. The longer this continues the greater the bills that sit on people’s kitchen tables are, bills the Welsh Government has stated cannot be recouped by homeowners.
“Labour need to stop shielding property developers and focus on delivering the urgent remediation work needed to make their buildings safe.”
Earlier this month Ms James revealed she had written to property developers inviting them to a meeting to discuss their building in Wales which require repairs due to safety defects, and setting out the government’s position that developers should contribute towards the costs of fixing these problems.
In the letter she wrote: “While I would prefer to work in collaboration with developers to secure the required remediation for Welsh leaseholders, I am prepared to use all the powers at my disposal to pursue developers who do not engage.
The minister also published a list of developers who had failed to engage with the Welsh Government and warned them that “failing to act should have significant reputational and commercial consequences for the firms involved.”
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