The Tory government faces a backbench rebellion over the plight of residents stuck in blocks of flats who face crippling bills to remove flammable cladding.
Backbenchers are calling for an amendment to make it illegal for housing developers to pass on remediation costs to leaseholders. They are close to obtaining the 44 Conservative party member signatures they need to defeat the government’s working majority.
Tory backbenchers have described the government’s response to the scandal so far as “regrettable” and “embarrassing”. On 1 February, members of the opposition will force a Commons debate in which numerous Tories MPs are expected to demand the government offers greater support to home-owners who are affected.
The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has so far committed £1.6 billion to remove dangerous cladding from about 1,700 buildings higher than 18m. However, there is estimated to be almost 80,000 blocks of flats that are between 11 and 18m high and whose residents are unable to sell or mortgage their homes.
The MP for Southampton and Itchen, Mr Smith, urged the government to implement a solution that did not involve “bankrupting innocent people”.
He said: “The time for talking about solutions to the cladding crisis has long passed. The government’s inability or reluctance to act to resolve this awful situation is quite frankly embarrassing.”
The Conservative MP for Worthing West and father of the house, Sir Peter Bottomley, said: “The properties that are affected are not half a million pound flats in Vauxhall, they are £120,000 flats in cities in the North and the Midlands.”
Following the Grenfell tragedy, mortgage lenders stopped issuing mortgages to flat-owners unless they could obtain external wall fire review forms proving that their apartment blocks were not covered in flammable materials.
Many flat owners, unable to sell their homes, have been forced to cover the costs of expensive alarm systems and nightly fire patrols while they wait for contractors to remove their cladding.
The MP for Stevenage, Mr McPartland said: “Robert Jenrick has to stop talking and start taking action. Too many excuses and too much time has gone by, with millions of leaseholders left in limbo for years facing extortionate bills.”
A representative for the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government said that the government was making “good progress” removing cladding and leaseholders should be protected from large-scale remediation costs “wherever possible”.
The official said: “Leaseholders shouldn’t have to worry about the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects in high-rise buildings that they didn’t cause.”