Grenfell, Seven Years On: TPI calls on the next government to finish the job of fixing unsafe buildings

Statement from The Property Institute, marking the seventh anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, calling on the next Government to urgently remediate unsafe buildings.

Seven years have passed since the tragic night when Grenfell Tower was engulfed in flames, leaving an indelible scar on our collective conscience. Today, as we remember the 72 lives lost, The Property Institute (TPI) stands in solidarity with the survivors and the Grenfell community, who continue to seek justice, and  we urge the next Government to get on with remediating unsafe buildings. 

The Grenfell Tower fire was a preventable disaster – the consequence of a series of systemic failures and regulatory oversights. Combustible cladding, inadequate fire doors, and a dangerously flawed stay-put policy turned the tower into a death trap. The aftermath revealed the urgent need for comprehensive safety measures. Seven years on, we have a new regulatory regime, but there remain many challenges ahead to ensuring buildings – and more importantly, residents - are safe. 

In the immediate wake of the tragedy, we called on the government to take swift and decisive action. We urged them to identify, fund, and fix unsafe buildings, prioritising resident safety over bureaucratic disputes about responsibility and costs. This led to the opening of the Building Safety Fund and later, the cladding Safety Scheme, for buildings 11 – 18 metres, as well as a Waking Watch Fund. In January 2023, the Government published its developer remediation contract, urging developers to fix their own buildings, under a ‘polluter pays’ mechanism, creating penalties for those who refused to take responsibility, with a clear message that ‘leaseholders must not pay’. Whilst the funds have helped many buildings, and responsible developers are working hard to fix some of the defects and replace dangerous cladding, over 3,000 unsafe buildings still stand, and the struggle over who should bear the costs and responsibilities of making them safe continues to overshadow the urgent need for action.

As we mark this sombre anniversary, we must recognise that although progress has been made, remediating these ‘vertical villages’ has been frustratingly slow, leaving many residents at risk and facing exorbitant insurance premiums. However, we have a new regulatory regime, established by the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA), that is starting to bed in, and we are seeing a cultural shift in the industry, particularly for the in-occupation phase, led by the Building Safety Regulator.

In recent years, the industry has grappled with the many new and complex duties and has gone through the biggest overhaul of design, construction, building regulations, fire safety and in-occupation management of high-rise residential blocks in decades, with serious criminal sanctions for those who do not comply. Compliance with the robust new legislation and competence to the BSI 8670 framework and PAS 8671, 8672 and 8673 standards require collaboration between dutyholders, designers, contractors, developers, residents, safety professionals, building owners, and property managers. Indeed, it was one of the intentions of the new regime, referenced in Dame Judith Hackitt’s enquiry, to foster collaboration across the professions.

Andrew Bulmer, Chief Executive of The Property Institute, commented: 

“Building safety has almost been a game of two-halves over the last seven years. With the new BSR regime, the standards and duties for the in-occupation phase mark a significant improvement, and we’re seeing evidence of the culture change the Hackitt Review asked for. The technical and legal requirements brought in with the BSA, whilst complex, should close this circle. The Gateway system and revised building control arrangements should ensure buildings are properly designed, constructed, and managed – and we should see this evidenced when the BSR reports on the first tranche of buildings being called in for the Building Assessment Certificate (BAC).

“By contrast, the remediation programme and leaseholder protections regime have been disappointingly slow and limited, particularly for resident-controlled or owned blocks. While there has been good progress on ACM remediation, the thousands trapped in buildings with other safety issues and defects and non-ACM cladding have not fared so well. This focus on ‘cladding’ as opposed to whole building fire and structural safety - which underpin the BSR regime - has left many buildings only partially fixed, and thus, leaseholders left living in unsafe buildings and paying significantly higher insurance premiums. Rather than finding, funding and fixing buildings as we called for from the outset, a complex set of ‘rights to fight’ have been created and a multi-tiered waterfall of litigation rights pushes funding disputes into Court, while residents are trapped with a home they cannot sell and bills for safety defects they didn’t create. 

"Anyone who has followed the Grenfell enquiry knows that for decades, there has been a complex mix of failures in suppliers, product manufacturers, designers, contractors, developers and building control, and with the delay in the final Grenfell Inquiry to September, the criminal trials are not expected until 2027. What we can be sure about is that it wasn't leaseholders or residents, and the next Government needs to get these buildings fixed and stop the hurt.”

The next Government must rise to the occasion and make a commitment to proactive, tangible measures that prioritise human life and safety above all else. This includes tackling the implementation issues, slow progress, and limitations of the remediation programme, as well as removing bureaucratic obstacles that delay building repairs and revisiting amendments to the Building Safety Act, so that buildings are fully fixed, and residents are safe and protected from unnecessary costs. As we ask the Government in our Manifesto – we need to finish the job of fixing unsafe buildings. 

The resilience and relentless pursuit of justice by the Grenfell community inspire us to demand more from those in power. As we gather to honour the memory of those lost, we must also renew our resolve to push for the change that is so desperately needed. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the lessons of Grenfell are not forgotten. 

As we elect a new Government, the time for change is now. We owe it to the victims, the survivors, and to ourselves to build safer communities. The next government must act and deliver on the promises made in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy. 

Let us remember Grenfell not just with sorrow, but with an unwavering commitment to ensuring a safer future for all.