The Daily Telegraph

We are pursuing the worst actors in the housing market

Ministers are determined to deliver for leaseholde­rs and restore confidence in the property sector

- SIMON CLARKE Simon Clarke is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communitie­s

We have a new and reinvigora­ted government in Westminste­r. A government ready to roll up its sleeves and put in the hard graft so that the future of this country is bright and prosperous.

We must ensure that everyone in our society – irrespecti­ve of where they are from, what they do, or how much money they earn – lives somewhere warm, decent and safe.

We have already acted on energy bills, so a typical household will pay no more than £2,500, while providing hundreds of pounds in relief for struggling families this winter.

And we are acting with that same urgency on building safety.

What happened at Grenfell Tower was nothing short of a national tragedy. It should not have taken the death of 72 people for us to have woken up to just how ineffectiv­e the building safety regime was. It is our duty as a government to fix this, and ensure that it never happens again.

Just a few weeks into the job I am hearing from leaseholde­rs who are still waiting for remediatio­n works to be carried out, who are unable to sell, and face sky-high building insurance premiums.

I’m determined to finish the job my predecesso­rs started, fixing the system for good, ensuring that industry rectifies the problems it created, and making sure that the leaseholde­rs who have been so unfairly caught up in this scandal get the relief and protection they deserve.

In recent months, we have already taken some big steps in the right direction.

The Building Safety Act came into force over the summer.

It represents the greatest set of reforms in a generation with a tough new regulator and an even tougher regulatory regime to ensure that people’s homes are made safe.

The Act means that every block of flats must now have someone who is responsibl­e for a building’s safety and the residents who live in it.

It also provides far-reaching legal protection­s to leaseholde­rs so that they are no longer hit with unfair bills to fix cladding issues.

For the first time, government will have powers to force owners to fix dangerous buildings for which they are responsibl­e and ensure remediatio­n works are both fast and proportion­ate. Forty-nine of the largest housebuild­ers have now risen to the challenge set by the Government and signed a public pledge to fix unsafe buildings that they developed or refurbishe­d. Responsibl­e housebuild­ers are wasting no time in getting on with fixing those buildings and I look forward to working with this group on our ambitious housing agenda to deliver the homes and growth this country deserves. We will shortly turn those pledges into legally binding contracts, which will give residents confidence that their homes will be made safe and that leaseholde­rs will not have to pay.

Any housebuild­ers that fail to act responsibl­y may be blocked from commencing developmen­ts and from being granted building control sign-off for their buildings. This month we have taken steps to set up a scheme in law to show which housebuild­ers are doing the right thing, and which are failing to do so.

Our Recovery Strategy Unit will expose and pursue firms and individual­s involved in the most egregious cases of building safety neglect. Where freeholder­s are not coming forward and accepting government money to make buildings safe, this unit will be launching legal action. I expect the first cases to be brought very soon. The Government is determined to hold the worst actors to account, deliver for leaseholde­rs and restore confidence in the housing market. But this was never about heaping blame on one part of the sector. It is about making the whole industry, including constructi­on product manufactur­ers, play its part in fixing the wrongs of the past.

That is one of the reasons why my department is also working hand in hand with the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that appalling practices within the insurance industry, like the sharing of commission­s between brokers and managing agents, which can drive up prices for consumers, are brought to a swift end. I wrote to the British Insurers Brokers’ Associatio­n myself this week and I expect this immoral behaviour to stop immediatel­y.

It is also why we will continue to work relentless­ly with the lending industry to ensure leaseholde­rs are no longer trapped by over the top risk aversion and unnecessar­y paperwork, freeing them to take their next step on the housing ladder. I welcome their commitment­s so far but now is the time to see tangible changes to unlock the market.

We will make homes safer. We will protect leaseholde­rs from crippling costs. And we will work to restore the right of everyone in this country to feel safe in the place where they and their loved ones sleep at night.

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