More than 2,700 applications have been received so far for the £1bn Building Safety Fund launched in July which will be used to remove unsafe non-aluminium composite material (non-ACM) cladding from buildings more than 18 meters high.
But by 25 September just 138 decisions had been made by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), according to its first set of data.
Fewer than half of these have been accepted for funding by the department, with 73 being rejected and withdrawn.
The vast number of applications received since the fund opened on 31 July illustrates the scale of the issue facing the nation from tower blocks with potentially unsafe cladding.
A separate fund has also been established for removing unsafe ACM cladding which was the type involved in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Majority of assessments declined
In total 2,784 applications were received but 1,709 did not have the basic information to assess if they were eligible, 628 provided some but not enough information to assess eligibility, while 447 are being assessed.
“The eligibility of buildings is assessed against if they have unsafe cladding, the height of the building and if leaseholders are present in the building,” the MHCLG data noted.
“The department does not intend to publish a building by building list of decisions and their rationale.
“These are communicated to registrants who we expect will ensure that their residents are kept fully informed.”
Safety certificates blocking movers
The issue of cladding and other fire risk materials has severely impacted people trying to buy and sell properties in high rise buildings.
With limited numbers of registered fire safety assessors available to assess buildings, it is estimated thousands of people have been stuck in their properties unable to move until they get a safety certificate which can be accepted by lenders.
In the March 2020 budget, the government announced it will provide £1bn in 2020 to 2021 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding system on residential buildings 18 metres and over in both the private and social housing sectors.
In 2019 it released around £200m to remove and replace unsafe aluminium composite material cladding from around 170 privately owned high-rise buildings after private building owners failed to take action and tried to offload costs onto leaseholders.
Building owners must step up
An MHCLG spokeswoman told Mortgage Solutions the department was disappointed that building owners were not up to speed with the required information.
“Our priority is making homes safer, more quickly, which is why we’re providing £1bn to speed up the removal of unsafe non-ACM cladding through our Building Safety Fund,” she said.
“We are already working to progress eligible applicants to the fund to the next stage – so we can begin the remediation process as quickly as possible.
“It’s disappointing so many building owners – who are responsible for making sure their buildings are safe – have been unable to provide the basic information we need to progress and we urge them to do so as quickly as possible.”
It is understood that work is complete or under way in more than 70 per cent of buildings with ACM cladding, with this figure rising to more than 90 per cent in the social housing sector.
The government also emphasised that building owners should meet the costs of the work without passing them on to leaseholders wherever possible.