A weekly round-up of the most important headlines for housing professionals
There have been several stories relating to building safety this week, including on the cladding scandal (picture: Peter Apps)
The second announcement follows substantial public concern about the recent revelations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry surrounding insulation companies, and should open up a route to hold this sector of the construction industry to account.
There were strong rumours that this flurry of announcements was a softening of the ground ahead of an announcement of loans to building owners repaid by leaseholders to fix the crisis, an idea developed by a government advisor and branded a ‘cladding tax’ by campaigners. The government neither confirmed nor denied this when asked by Inside Housing.
Finally, Friday saw the release of statistics showing that steady progress is finally being made on remediating buildings with aluminium composite material cladding. This does, however, represent a tiny proportion of the overall crisis, and the only element of it that has full public funding.
There was also an important report from Barking and Dagenham Council that underlined the difficulty of what happens after a fire, and how residents can be let down long after the blaze has been put out. It told a pretty sorry story and is one the sector should pay mind too, with an increasing number of buildings being evacuated as a result of safety issues in recent months.
Stepping away from building safety, finance news included a deal secured by Clarion Housing Group at a record-low interest rate and the early stages of the latest Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme getting under way with a key appointment and some early interest from borrowers.
Another appointment story (this time a little more unusual) was the appointment of a new bishop for housing as the Church of England decided to get biblical (well, Matthew 25:35 at least) on the homelessness crisis.
Clarion made the news again thanks to a dispute with a trade union about the safety of carrying out routine repairs during lockdown, which will resonate across the sector.
There were also interesting statistics on the Right to Buy this week, showing that the programme may be naturally running out of steam with sales slowing down sharply. It also showed that the government has essentially buried its promise to keep up with replacement of the homes sold.
And away from England, Northern Ireland’s government pledged to maintain ambitious levels of social housing funding despite the budgetary pressures all governments will face post-pandemic. We will see if Rishi Sunak follows suit on 3 March.
Peter Apps, deputy editor, Inside Housing
Editor’s picks: five must-read stories
- Chaos, confusion and miscommunication: five key takeaways from the Barking Fire review
- The benefits of collaboration between the church and housing associations
- Right to buy sales plunge 43% to eight year low
- We must dispel myths about poverty in order to build a fairer system
- Building safety minister backs developer levy to help leaseholders facing cladding bills