Private Tower Blocks: Removal of Cladding

Part of Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow 7:26 pm, 29th April 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution, and I very much hope that the Minister will say something concrete about legislation and about other steps that he and his Government will take to rectify this appalling problem.

This is deeply worrying for families living in those blocks, and is causing huge anxiety, fear and insecurity. Many of my constituents have raised serious concerns. One of them said that

“we are trapped with crippling fire warden charges and have an unsaleable flat. My wife is now taking anti-depressants.”

The UK Cladding Action Group, established by residents in these unsafe blocks, has run a survey showing the impact on the mental health of these residents, and 88% stated that their mental health was worse than before. One resident said:

“I feel as though I could burn alive at any minute. I live in constant fear, my physical and mental health has taken a huge impact. My financial situation is unbearable, I cannot sell my property or remortgage. I am stuck in a nightmare”.

Another said:

“The massive £18,500 charge bestowed upon me is completely un-payable in my current financial situation. I have put everything on hold in the hope of a solution to present itself but currently nothing.”

Another said:

“I was made redundant and can’t get a loan, can’t remortgage or sell my property. I feel trapped and the anxiety of this is affecting me getting another job”.

Another said:

“The constant stress and worry has destroyed the relationship with my long term partner and as a result we have terminated our relationship. She could not handle living in a building that could kill us”.

Another said:

“The financial stress and feeling unsafe in my own home is taking a huge toll on our lives—we are also getting married in two months and this huge cladding bill has overridden everything. We want to move so we can start a family but are unable to as the flat is not sellable, and we can’t raise a family in such a flammable building.”

Others have listed many examples of struggle and trauma. One resident said:

“My partner and I need to sell our property to buy a bigger place because I am pregnant and expecting our first child in 1 month. However, we have been unable to do this due to the cladding. This has caused immense amounts of anxiety and stress. We have also had to put our wedding plans on hold.”

Another said:

“I can’t sleep very well. I think about my unsafe property daily. I can’t believe that I bought it in good faith, thinking I’d live in a safe and happy home. I’m stressed every day.”

Others have talked about their health issues. One resident said:

“I suffer from an auto immune condition. Stress and working long hours can make the symptoms worse. This is a stressful situation as I feel I may not be able to sell/remortgage my property. And now I’m not only worried about my family’s safety, I’m worried about our financial security. So now I’m working harder than ever.”

Another said:

“My boyfriend has moved to Italy without me as I cannot sell my flat…
I have had to take a second job as I am unable to sell the property and release capital”.

Another of the residents said:

“This has been the worst 21 months of my life. I am struggling to get through each day. Gone is the enjoyment of life.”

There are hundreds of these testimonies, and I have highlighted just some of the experiences of anxiety and fear, as well as devastation, that living in ACM-cladded properties has caused people up and down the country, as well as in my own constituency.

On 8 May, the UK Cladding Action Group will host a meeting to share its findings and concerns. I hope the Minister will be able to meet us at this very important meeting, and that Members from across the House will join the residents attending that meeting.