Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 2nd Feb 2022
Mon 17th May 2021
Tue 20th Apr 2021
Wed 17th Mar 2021
Fire Safety Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Lords Hansard
Mon 22nd Feb 2021
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I am pleased to join others in welcoming the Building Safety Bill to the upper House and I congratulate the Minister on its introduction. The tragedy of the Grenfell fire four years ago exposed huge concerns about building safety in relation to both fire safety and building standards more generally. The Bill is a hugely important piece of legislation in our efforts to ensure that a tragedy like the fire at Grenfell Tower can never happen again.

Housing associations across the country have been working since June 2017 on assessing and remediating building safety risks in thousands of blocks. As chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body of housing associations in England—I declare that interest—I have come to understand and appreciate the depth and breadth of the crisis.

It is the priority of the sector to ensure that safety concerns can be identified and addressed as quickly as possible to help residents feel safe in their homes. So many of us will remember from the passage of the Fire Safety Act that progress towards ending this crisis has been delayed and prolonged by seemingly intractable funding challenges, not least for innocent leaseholders facing huge bills.

That is why I very much welcome the announcement that the Secretary of State made in the other place on 10 January that the Government will protect leaseholders from the costs and make developers, contractors and manufacturers pay to fix the building safety issues that they caused. The Government are right to make those who profited from unsafe building practices pay. This important step will enable us to start the process of charting a course out of the crisis.

As I have mentioned many times in this House, housing associations are not-for-profit organisations providing affordable homes for those on the lowest incomes. To cover the costs of remediation on buildings where social renters live, housing associations are already expecting to spend in excess of £6 billion on building safety works. As a consequence, housing associations are now less able to improve their current homes or build new ones.

The National Housing Federation’s 2021 survey found that 12,900 homes, more than 10% of affordable new homes to be built over the next five years, have already had to be cut to prioritise spending on building safety. I welcome confirmation from the Secretary of State that leaseholders of buildings owned by social housing providers will have access to the new funding to avoid these costs spiralling further. However, like others, I would welcome clarity from the Minister on the Government’s approach to non-cladding costs, and whether funding recouped from industry will be allocated for this purpose.

I know that the housing association sector is committed to working closely with the Government to find a fair and sustainable solution to our housing prices that balances both making buildings safe and enabling new homes to be built. I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State refer to building social housing and improving existing homes as a core mission of his department. However, I was worried that correspondence from the Treasury made public at the start of the year suggests existing departmental budgets would need to be used, should it not be possible to recoup money from industry. That is why I hope that the Minister will assure us today that the affordable homes programme will be protected to avoid any further reductions in the delivery of much-needed affordable housing.

I also want to support the Government’s evidence-based approach to assessing and managing risk in buildings. It is right that, where safety issues present an unacceptable level of risk, they are fixed with urgency; it is also right that, if risks can be eliminated and effectively minimised without vast building works, these options should be explored and, where suitable, implemented. I welcome the launch of PAS 9980 to aid this transition. We are in the early stages of implementation, and it is not yet clear how it would truly impact on how mid-rise buildings are treated and, in truth, what impact it will have on the amount and costs of work needed on buildings between 11 and 18 metres. I understand that the Government have already undertaken a survey of such buildings to ascertain a view on this; I also believe that close monitoring of the implementation of PAS 9980 could greatly help the Government, building owners, tenderers and lenders in understanding the evolving situation. Will the Minister commit to publishing the findings of the Government’s recent survey, and what plans does he have to monitor the approach to proportionality?

Finally, I welcome the part of the Bill that introduces a new homes ombudsman scheme—and I declare an interest as the chair of the Property Ombudsman. I wholeheartedly agree with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Best—indeed, I would like to see the ombudsman report directly to Parliament. I just want to emphasise that, at a time when public and particularly home-buyer confidence is so low, the need for transparency and absolute real and perceived independence is crucial if the Government are to reassure homeowners that the ombudsman has teeth. Only that way will they have the trust and confidence in the redress or reassurance that they receive from the ombudsman. This is especially true when property developers do not comply with a decision; there needs to be a clear and transparent mechanism for enforcing decisions, in the worst case removing businesses from membership, and communicating this to existing and potential home-buyers. That enforcement should apply not just to financial redress but to implementation of recommendations to drive better outcomes for all.

This urgently needed Building Safety Bill has the potential to provide safety and security to those whose homes have wrongfully been built with safety risks. I hope that it will create a future in which the horrors of an event like Grenfell are no longer possible. The housing association sector wants to work with government to ensure that the Bill is as effective as possible at delivering that ambition.

Leaseholders: Costs

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Thursday 18th November 2021

(6 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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Of course we want to protect leaseholders and ensure that social landlords can build new homes of high quality but, far too often, they as developers were in charge of building homes of poor quality, and they need to fix those homes. The figures are that, as of 31 October, £97.3 million has been approved from the building safety fund, and there is the £200 million to remove cladding of aluminium composite material. We are doing what we can to protect leaseholders, but we recognise the challenges faced by registered providers.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, further to that very point, the Secretary of State, in front of the HCLG Committee, acknowledged the unfair and undue burden on both leaseholders and social housing tenants to shoulder the remediation costs. How do the Government plan to alleviate what the Secretary of State referred to as the Sophie’s choice of the housing associations between safety and investing in stock and quality?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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All major landlords, including social landlords, will have to do that as a matter of course. We are providing funds that will protect leaseholders where the balance sheet does not enable them to do so, and I have given those figures already. However, we ask for a sense of proportion from registered providers—I have reached out to the noble Baroness’s chief executive—not to inflate the bill just because the taxpayer sums are there, but to keep costs down. We need to ensure that together we remediate, mitigate where that is preferable to remediation, keep tenants safe and use the affordable homes programme to build more homes.

Net Zero: Social Market Foundation Report

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Monday 1st November 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are absolutely committed to rural areas not being left behind and take the point that they are essentially very different from urban areas. However, we do not consider that we should have a separate rural strategy but consider it to be part of all our activities.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the National Housing Federation. I know from talking to housing associations over the last few months how determined and ambitious they are to make homes greener and warmer for residents and to tackle climate change, but it cannot be done alone. They are already planning to invest £70 billion in future-proofing, but our new estimates, produced by Savills, show that it will cost an extra £36 billion to reach full decarbonisation by 2050. I welcome the additional £800 million announced last week, together with the heat and buildings strategy—a great step forward—but neither addresses the long-term funding gap to 2050. Can the Government work with the sector to bridge this gap and to achieve the country’s net-zero ambitions?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that there are considerable challenges in decarbonising our homes. I made a commitment that we will work together to help housing associations address those challenges.

Supported Housing: Funding

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Tuesday 14th September 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that long-term, ring-fenced funding is available for supported housing.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I declare my interest as chair of the National Housing Federation.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, funding is devolved to local authorities through the local government settlement; they are best placed to make decisions on local services. We continue to work with the sector to address issues of supply and quality. The plan for health and social care announced last week included a commitment that the Government will invest in supported housing, as well as exploring other innovative housing solutions to support more people to live independently at home.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, supported housing plays a transformational role in maintaining independence for those with extra care needs, as well as people rebuilding their lives after street homelessness or domestic abuse. It was never more critical than during the pandemic and needs to be an integral part of our national recovery. Does the Minister recognise the enormous contribution of supported housing? Does he recall the £1.6 billion of ring-fenced funding, which sustained the provision of housing-related support, and does he believe that it needs to be reinstated in the upcoming CSR if we want to avoid a crisis for swathes of the most vulnerable people in our country?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, as I set out in my original Answer, the focus has been away from ring-fencing of funding, but of the £12 billion that has been provided during this pandemic for local councils to deal with the pressures, £6 billion was non-ring-fenced, and a lot of that money can be prioritised for the issues around housing-related support services to ensure that the quality of the services can be continued.

Queen’s Speech

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Monday 17th May 2021

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Morse, on their excellent maiden speeches. I will focus on the provision of homes. I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body for housing associations in England.

I welcome wholeheartedly the Government’s recognition in the Queen’s Speech of the importance of housing and their plans to bring forward several Bills on it, but I have some real concerns, which I know are shared by many others in this House and elsewhere, that this legislative programme does not truly represent the ambition on housing that this country needs. I hope that the House will soon debate the building safety Bill, a critical piece of legislation needed to ensure that a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire can never happen again, but there has been yet another missed opportunity to provide certainty for leaseholders and charitable housing associations by bringing forward the up-front funding that is so desperately needed for immediate building safety works.

We were reminded just in the last few weeks of the stark reality of this crisis following the recent fire in a block of flats in Poplar that is still wrapped in unsafe cladding. The truth is that, despite the best efforts of many building owners, many people continue to go to sleep every night in homes with building safety concerns. They also often face the short-term and long-term personal and financial impact of huge building safety bills for errors that were not of their making.

While the Government have provided much-needed funding for some remedial works, we are still far short of a complete solution. For instance, there is still no money available for social housing providers to undertake remedial works on properties where tenants live. Social housing providers are charities; they do not make a profit but are now facing costs in excess of £10 billion to do these works.

Just two weeks ago, the Financial Times reported that the number of affordable homes built by four of the largest housing associations in the country will be reduced by 40% because of the mounting financial pressure of building safety. There is a housing crisis, and we need more homes. We also need those existing homes with faults to be made safe as quickly as possible. Does the Minister acknowledge that the only real solution is for the Government to provide up-front funding for building safety works and then recoup these costs from those responsible?

The Government’s planning Bill may become a second threat to the construction of much-needed affordable housing in England. I strongly support the Government’s ambition to make the planning system more transparent and to speed up the process of development. However, their intention to change current mechanisms, such as Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which has delivered a significant number of affordable homes over many years, is a grave worry.

Can the Minister give the House more detail on the Government’s new proposed mechanisms for funding affordable housing and will he assure us that this new system will result in greater numbers of affordable homes, not fewer? I was also disappointed not to see the Government bring forward legislation on the social housing White Paper, which had been expected. Can the Minister confirm when the Government will bring forward this legislation?

Similarly, we were promised a White Paper on renters’ reform. I had hoped this would lead to effective legislation to provide security for private renters, for example, by changes to Section 21 and no-fault evictions which leave renters in a very precarious position. The Minister said in his opening that it is hoped to introduce it in the autumn. I hope I have got that right. Can he confirm that it will cover these issues?

Other noble Lords have regretted that there was no mention of social care, and I share these concerns. It is a huge gap in the Queen’s Speech. Can the Minister say anything at all about what the Government’s plans are?

As housing associations look to the long-term future, more clarity over their role in helping the Government achieve their decarbonisation net-zero target would also have been welcome. As I have raised before, the housing association sector is central to our efforts to meet our net-zero targets by building greener homes and making existing homes more sustainable. I hope the Government will heed the words of the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, on this issue. This is a vast exercise that housing associations have the skills, scale and ambition to undertake. In making future spending decisions, I hope the Government will consider the support the sector needs to reach its potential as a central partner to the country’s ambitions to tackle the climate crisis.

Finally, I will close by touching on levelling up. Safe, affordable and good quality homes can be at the centre of place making and drive forward prosperity. Will the Minister assure us that the Government will closely consider the role of housing and housing associations as they look to deliver this agenda? As community anchors that exist to serve and respond to people and places, housing associations stand ready to deliver the much- needed change these towns and regions deserve.

Covid-19: Poverty and Mass Evictions

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the trade body for housing associations in England. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing a most timely debate.

The Government took speedy and decisive action to bring in the ban on evictions, introduce the universal credit uplift and deliver the “Everyone In” initiative. That was well done. This package undoubtedly saved lives and prevented people losing their homes and being plunged into poverty at this most difficult of times. The Minister knows that the worst impact of the pandemic has not been evenly distributed across our society. People on lower incomes have had higher contraction and mortality rates. Many of them have lost jobs or are stuck in precarious employment. Things for them have got worse in the past 12 months, and the future is not looking bright.

Research from the National Housing Federation shows that since the start of the crisis the number of social rented households in England claiming the housing element of universal credit has increased by 39%. In addition, around 60% of households that claim universal credit are in rent arrears. This picture is just for the housing association sector, which has put in place robust measures to support residents. For people in the private rented sector, the situation must be a lot bleaker.

Housing associations pledged from the start that no one would be evicted because of financial hardship caused by the pandemic. They set up schemes across the country to help residents get access to the vital financial support they needed through the welfare system. For example, Sovereign Housing, which operates in the south-east, has retrained 75 members of staff to help residents who are facing a drop in income. It has partnered with local businesses to help these residents find employment. Unfortunately, such initiatives alone will not be enough. Many families now stand on a cliff edge. What will prevent them falling off?

As the country’s economic and social recovery starts, we must not leave people who are already struggling even further behind. The eviction ban is, of course, not sustainable in perpetuity but I hope the Minister will acknowledge that we face a real and present danger of unravelling the complex support system that is keeping people’s heads above water. We must learn the lessons from this crisis—that a safe, affordable and decent home, with effective government support where needed, is the bedrock of a compassionate society.

With strong government action and leadership, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of people facing long-term financial hardship. Can the Minister commit to preventing those families falling off that cliff edge by keeping the support packages currently in place, including the £20 increase in universal credit? Can he also tell us what assessments his department and the Government have made of the implications of withdrawing this package for the housing situation of individuals and families?

Fire Safety Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Tuesday 20th April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body of housing associations in England. The fact that these issues are before the House again demonstrates the enormous concern that blameless leaseholders should be protected from suffering the costs of those building safety remediation works that have come to light since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower almost four years ago. Like others, I pay tribute to the commitment and tenacity of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for keeping the Government’s feet to the fire.

Housing associations have worked tirelessly since 2017 to uncover and put right the urgent building safety issues with which since the Grenfell tragedy we are now all too familiar. The safety of their residents is an absolute and immovable priority for the housing association sector. They are also acutely aware of the stress and heartache that leaseholders have experienced and have pursued every avenue available to them to ensure that those responsible, the developers of these buildings, pay for their mistakes. The funds that the Government have already made available for building safety works have a very important part to play in tackling this crisis, but they are by no means a complete solution. It is just not acceptable that under the established scheme some costs will still fall to leaseholders.

I have said before, in early discussions on the Bill, and I stress again today, that social housing providers cannot access this funding for remedial works on properties where tenants live. The funding applies only to leaseholders. That means quite simply that these charitable organisations, which do not make a profit and are set up with the primary purpose of housing people on lower incomes, are facing an enormous bill to set right errors not of their own making—a bill that, at a modest estimate, will exceed £10 billion.

Housing Strategy

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Wednesday 24th March 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body for housing associations in England. I wholeheartedly welcome this report. The most reverend Primates set their commission the task of reimagining housing policy and practice and it has done them proud.

In the face of a national crisis in meeting housing need, with millions living in unaffordable, cramped accommodation, which the pandemic has exposed as a danger to our national health, the report seeks cross- party consensus on the development of a long-term housing strategy that will provide a stable and sustainable solution. It does this in a most refreshing way: it looks into the Church’s own backyard, so to speak—reminiscent of the saying, “Physician, heal thyself”—and seeks first the commitment of the Church’s leaders, clergy and congregations to put their land and other resources into delivering the social and environmental benefits of meeting local housing need and building viable communities. It reminds not just the Church but the rest of us that it is the poorest and the most marginalised who suffer the burden of our housing crisis. This is put into stark relief by all the data emerging from the pandemic, which reinforces the point that the worst-off have been the worst hit.

If we look at the facts, over 8 million people in England are in housing need. This is likely only to increase as the pandemic progresses, as we see unemployment levels rising, together with the number of people claiming universal credit. Research from the National Housing Federation reveals that for 3.8 million of those in housing need, social rented housing would be the best solution. However, 1.6 million households are on the social housing waiting list. Providers could meet that need with the right funding support and access to land.

The report’s recommendation to the Church Commissioners to use their land assets for the development of more truly affordable homes will, I hope, be embraced by the Church at all levels. The report looks at other positive developments, such as the commitment to the stewardship code and seeking collaboration with the Charity Commission. It commits the Church Commissioners to engaging in innovative partnerships with others, particularly councils and housing associations, to fulfil the mission. Housing associations will gladly work with them to achieve this.

I hope that the actions of the Church Commissioners will encourage other landowners to follow their example. I hope that they inspire the Government to recognise social housing as fundamental to a society where no one is left behind and where communities thrive.

As the report emphasises, this crisis will not be resolved without government action—not short-term fixes as Ministers come and go, but

“a bold, coherent, long-term housing strategy, focused on those in greatest need.”

I hope the Government will listen. They have committed to building affordable homes through the affordable homes programme and I welcome this. But that will not go anywhere near far enough to address the crisis we face. The very word “affordable” is a misnomer, as other speakers have said. For those in high-price areas, it is impossible to contemplate finding 80% of market rates—the so-called affordable rate.

We need to build 90,000 socially rented homes a year, as well as provide adequate supported houses for those with additional needs. This will not only address the housing crisis that we face, but help to relieve pressure on stretched public services. I will give just one example. Anchor Hanover housing association recently modelled the value of a supported housing tenancy in one of their schemes for older people and found that every extra care housing place can generate up to £6,700 in savings to local public services, so the economic case for investing in different tenures of housing is as strong as the moral one.

The report does not shirk the need for remediation of existing homes. One of its six key themes is sustainability and the challenges facing the housing and construction sector in delivering the Government’s aspirations on energy efficiency and decarbonisation. It is worth recalling that 80% of all the homes that will exist in 2050 have already been built. That is a huge challenge for retrofitting carbon-neutral heating and power systems. The Committee on Climate Change has already said that

“We will not meet our targets for emissions reduction without near complete decarbonisation of the housing stock.”


The Government have made some large sums available, which are most welcome, but the resources available to the sector are not nearly sufficient to respond to the challenges of safety and cladding, remediation and decarbonisation, and building the new homes that we need.

The report is right to emphasise the need for a long-term strategy to address the housing shortage in this country, and other noble Lords have echoed that today. Coupled with clear objectives, the report identifies the way in which housing associations, local authorities and the Church, together with the Government, can deliver this mission. It is only by taking a holistic approach, focusing on everything from remediation to reforming the welfare system, that we begin to address the chronic housing need in England. This can only be delivered by a long-term strategy, which requires cross-party agreement. I hope that, today, the Minister commits to starting that process. Surely the inequalities in this country and the many divisions that have been reinforced by the pandemic require a more imaginative political response.

Housing associations stand ready to work with the Government to build the homes that this country needs. They are ready to work with local church groups, local authorities and charity partners to deliver the safe, high-quality and sustainable homes that we need. But I cannot stress enough the long-term certainty that is needed from the Government in order to sign off ambitious business plans to retrofit, remediate and build the truly affordable homes that we so desperately need. I hope that the Minister commits to a speedy response to this excellent report from the most reverend Primate’s commission.

Fire Safety Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
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My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest. I am a leaseholder in a block where I stay when I am in London during the week which has been found to have major safety defects and in which a waking watch is now in operation. I have therefore been able to see in my own bills but also by talking to people who live in the block what the consequences of the current situation really are. I strongly support the Motions in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and of my noble friend Lady Pinnock.

This is a scandal of major proportions, and it is a modern one. Most of the buildings we are talking about have been built in recent years. We are not talking about a problem left over from the Victorians or the Edwardians; this is a recent problem of our own times. As we have heard, it is causing great distress, not minor worries, to a large number of people. The scale of the financial consequences of the problems they face affects not just their short-term economic position but every aspect of their lives. The immediate costs in themselves are pretty horrendous for people on modest incomes. In my block, as elsewhere, people in that position are having to take out loans at very high rates of interest to deal even with the ongoing waking watch costs, which are considerable. However, beyond that, people are stuck. They cannot sell their flat or move, even if there were compelling reasons for them to do so. In some cases they feel unable to start a family as they planned, because of the overwhelming financial uncertainties that they face. None of this, as is obviously the case, is their fault at all. The Motion in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans deals with the core of the problem and would remove from them the cloud of the future financial burdens they face. I strongly support it.

For reasons which I fully understand, his Motion does not deal with who should ultimately pay for all this. In my mind, that is pretty straightforward. The principal burden should fall on those who are culpable: the developers. They have made very significant profits over very many years from building substandard accommodation, and they should pay for it. In the case of Barratt Developments, which built the block in which I live, its profits over the past five years alone have been more than £3.5 billion. It can afford to clean up its own mess, and the same applies to other major housebuilders. Exactly how that is done is, I admit, complicated, but this is a challenge for the Government which they have not begun to meet.

During the lockdown, television channels are showing old series because it has been so difficult to make new ones. Last night, I watched an old episode of “Yes Minister”, which I strongly recommend. It is clear that the Minister here watched it as well because he has used exactly the arguments which Sir Humphrey used to persuade his Minister not to take action: “It’s highly complex. I’m really sorry. We’d love to do it but it’s really quite difficult, you know. Even if we could do it, which we can’t, it’s not appropriate to do it in this Bill. If we can do it—and I’m not sure we can—it may be possible to do it in a future Bill. I’m not sure which Bill; I don’t know when it’s going to come. But because it’s very complicated, you wouldn’t expect me to say further.” That is the Minister’s response to this.

In last night’s “Yes Minister”, what happened was that the Minister in it, completely frustrated by these usual arguments, put his foot down by announcing on national television that something was going to be done, which in effect bounced his Permanent Secretary into doing it. I suggest that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, takes a leaf out of that Minister’s book and goes on television this very evening to say that he has been so impressed by the debate he has heard that the Government will now act speedily.

The truth is that the reason we are hanging about has everything to do with a lack of political will, and not to do with the technicalities. It is the job of government to deal with difficult things. Most bits of public policy are tricky and difficult. This is no exception but it does not mean that the Government have no policies on anything. It means that they choose what they want to devote time and effort to, and they have decided they are not prepared to put in the time, effort, commitment and funds to deal with this glaring injustice.

The right reverend Prelate’s Motion is a start because it removes the major part of the cloud facing people currently in difficulty and it should be supported. But even when it has been supported, it does not absolve the Government from grappling with this issue and sorting it out properly.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body for housing associations in England. Our members house 6 million people in 2.6 million homes, including a significant number of flats in multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings that need remedial work on their external wall system.

Nothing is a greater priority for housing associations than their residents’ safety. Following the awful Grenfell tragedy, they have been leading the way in the past three years by identifying buildings that need urgent work and carrying it out as quickly as possible. In his Motion C1, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans wants to protect leaseholders from huge bills to make their homes safe, and I support him. Leaseholders should not be facing such costs. Other noble Lords have given vivid examples of the impact on leaseholders.

Housing associations are doing what they can to ensure their leaseholders do not have to foot the bill for developers’ mistakes by pursuing the companies that built the buildings, as well as warranty and insurance providers. Sadly, these efforts are not always successful so I applaud a move by this House to provide extra assurance to leaseholders living in these homes.

However, housing associations face a huge dilemma. They exist predominantly to provide social homes to those on lower incomes. The buildings that housing associations need to remediate due to safety concerns will largely be made up of social housing. This welcome move to protect leaseholders must also be coupled with further government funding to pay for the necessary remedial works to all the buildings that need them. While the funding that the Government have made available for remediation costs so far is very welcome, the £1 billion building safety fund and the additional £3.5 billion announced last month are not available to remediate homes in which social tenants live.

Building Safety

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Monday 22nd February 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I can say that we are meeting with representatives of the insurance industry and of the cladding groups to work on precisely that—a solution to make sure that there is a proportionate, common-sense approach to building insurance. I underline that increasing the pace of remediation is likely to see a return to more sensible policies regarding the setting of building insurance.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation. Can the Minister explain why this very welcome new funding will not be made available to remediate the homes of people living in social housing? Housing associations do not have profits to draw on and local councils cannot simply deplete their reserves, so to make homes safe they will have to divert rental income that would have been spent on the upkeep of tenants’ homes, investment in their communities or building much-needed new affordable homes. Does the Minister accept that the only way to resolve this problem once and for all is for the Government to provide up-front funding for the remediation of homes of all tenures and then claw back as much as possible from those responsible for creating these inadequate buildings in the first place?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I point out that the priority of this Government is to protect leaseholders from facing the costs of the removal of unsafe cladding, whether they are in social sector buildings or in private buildings. Where registered social landlords feel that they need to impose costs on leaseholders, access to grant funding is available as well as the new financing scheme. That protects the leaseholders in those properties, which is the priority of this Government.