The number of unsafe homes bought with Help to Buy loans has been ‘grossly underestimated’, according to campaigners.
Official figures claim that than less than 300 homes covered in unsafe cladding – mainly flats in blocks – were bought using a Help to Buy loan.
People who bought homes covered with non-fire retardant cladding are unable to sell the properties until they are proved to be safe, as mortgage lenders are refusing loans, leaving them stuck in the buildings and facing huge repair bills.
We asked the Government how many Help-to-Buy homes are affected by cladding issues
It is believed that the overall number of homeowners affected is close to 700,000.
The proportion of homes with unsafe cladding that were bought with the assistance of the Help to Buy scheme is thought, by campaigners, to be much higher that the Government has estimated.
Will Martin, of the UK Cladding Action Group, said: ‘Nearly 38 months on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, do not yet know how many and which high-rise buildings across the country have been built with dangerous cladding and other fire safety defects.
‘They have also not yet identified buildings under 18 meters that are equally dangerous. We therefore doubt the accuracy of MHCLG’s suggestion that 300 homes in these affected buildings have been bought via the Help to Buy scheme.
‘The huge number of distressed people from affected buildings contacting UKCAG every single day also indicates this number to be much larger.
‘It is extremely disappointing to note that innocent people who thought they were being helped onto the first rung of the property ladder now find themselves trapped in dangerous flammable homes, unable to sell or move, their properties devalued to zero.
‘They face untold financial and mental agony, being forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds to fix fire safety defects that were not of their making; defects that arose as a result of the direct failure of building safety regulations and developers taking full advantage of lax regulations and lack of oversight.
‘We urge the MHCLG to recognise the anguish and mental torture that these innocent people are going through, and increase the size and scope of the building safety fund so that their homes can be made safe without any further delay.’
The action group’s comments follow its tweet calling on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to reveal the exact numbers of affected homes bought via Help to Buy.
It said: ‘How many Help to Buy properties are covered in combustible cladding, have fire safety defects, and have led to financial ruin and severe mental health strain for the people unfortunate enough to get the keys to these unsafe homes?’
The Government has announced that 323,767 homes in total have been bought using Help to Buy since the scheme begin in 2013.
Help to Buy has proved to be a popular injection of cash from the taxpayer for those struggling to get on the property ladder.
The scheme helps those with a small deposit to buy a home, and offers an interest-free loan as part of the deal.
MailOnline Property approached the Government for an answer to the question about how many homes bought using Help to Buy were affected by cladding issues.
It highlighted one of its reports, which contained an estimate provided by Homes England, the Government’s housing agency. It stated: ‘Homes England estimates 274 homes are affected by ACM cladding, based on a comparison of Departmental building safety data and the Homes England Help to Buy loan accounts. ‘
Resident living in unsafe high-rise buildings face soaring repair bills following the Grenfell Tower three years ago
MHCLG explained that the estimates are ‘based on a comparison of Departmental building safety data and the Homes England Help to Buy loan accounts.’
When asked about exactly what this meant, along with how and where the statistics were collected, MHCLG said: ‘We have nothing further to add.’
Residents living in unsafe high-rise buildings face soaring repair bills and being unable to sell their homes as lenders refuse to offer finance to buyers.
The clampdown follows the fire at Grenfell Tower three years ago, which claimed 72 lives.
The Government has already said that there are still 300 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England built or refurbished with similar aluminium composite cladding yet to be remediated.
The exact number affected is unknown, but some figures being circulated suggest it could be impacting as many as 700,000 flat owners.
The problem of non-fire retardant cladding on buildings has seen lenders refusing to give potential buyers a mortgage to purchase the properties.
The harsh reality is that if a block is covered in a non-fire retardant form of cladding, the flat owner will see their home become unmortgageable until the problem is fixed.