South Kilburn housing activist joins the #EndOurCladdingCampaign as fellow neighbours ‘can’t sell their homes’

Lucie Gutfreund, centre holding poster at an L&Q protest in February. Picture: Lucie Gutfreund

Lucie Gutfreund, centre holding poster at an L&Q protest in February. Picture: Lucie Gutfreund - Credit: Archant

A Kilburn housing campaigner has hit out at cladding issues in her block as a national campaign gets underway.

Bourne Place in South Kilburn where residents are unable to sell their homes. Picture: Lucie Gutfreu

Bourne Place in South Kilburn where residents are unable to sell their homes. Picture: Lucie Gutfreund - Credit: Archant

Lucie Gutfreund, who lives in Bourne Place, is part of the #EndOurCladdingScandal campaign, which addresses the knock-on effects of dangerous cladding.

People in the South Kilburn regeneration area are among those nationally to face spiralling costs of replacement while being unable to sell their new-build homes.

The campaign is supported by survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno.

Up to 3.6 million people nationally face waiting as long as a decade to sell almost any modern flat because they cannot prove their walls are safe.

Lucie said: “Although we are in an under 18m building, none of us are able to sell our flats or remortgage.

“Some neighbours are desperate to move because (they) have taken jobs elsewhere or their families have outgrown their homes. We cannot prove that our building might be low risk without obtaining the elusive EWS1 certificate that our housing association says may take ‘years’ to arrange for us.”

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Government advice mean mortgage lenders require an EWS1 form assuring the façade of a building is fire safe ahead of a mortgage being issued.

“Despite being introduced for buildings over 18m, this is being applied to any building above 11m by lenders,” added Lucie.

She said her block has combustible insulation that is no longer certified in the UK, wooden decking on balconies and may also have some problems with zinc and aluminium cladding.

“We will not have any answers until the EWS1 survey is arranged to give us an idea what remediation works are needed and what the costs will be. It’s extremely unfair.”

She added: “We bought these homes in good faith; homes that were certified with a new-build warranty that is now not worth the paper it is written on.

“I personally feel very let down by the promises of the South Kilburn Regeneration plan to deliver high quality homes and our residents continue to be let down by the council and the council’s leader who has not stepped in to support residents despite our walls displaying a plaque with his name on it.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Anton Georgiou said: “Since becoming a local councillor I’ve seen first hand the anxiety and impact on people’s mental health that the ongoing nationwide cladding scandal has had.

“Over three years on from the Grenfell tragedy it is a disgrace that the Government hasn’t managed to get to grips with this. I applaud the monumental efforts of campaigners from the UK Cladding Action Group and add my name to the long list of people who demand action now!”

An L&Q spokesperson said they “are also in support” of the campaign and working with the housing sector “to call on government to further increase capacity for inspections and remedial works, and to consider how it can further support people to move home safety and confidently”.

They added: “Unfortunately, as we own so many buildings affected by the new guidance, we’re not able to inspect, test, and then carry out works on them all at once. Instead we must prioritise our buildings based on risk. Our highest risk buildings, defined by height, occupancy and building materials, among other factors, will be inspected first.”

They added that Bourne Place will be assessed by April 2021.

“We are extremely sorry but we are unable to say when we will be able to provide residents at Bourne Place with an EWS1 form until our inspections of their buildings are complete.”

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent’s housing chief, said residents should contact their landlord directly. “Newly designed homes that are a part of the award-winning South Kilburn regeneration exceed the most recent regulations for fire safety,” she said. “It is unacceptable for residents to be left in limbo, unable to sell their properties and without certainty about when works will be complete. We expect all our partners in the borough to comply with latest regulations and urge the Government to support Housing Associations to complete all necessary works.”

A spokesperson for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We know many leaseholders and building owners are being asked for EWS1 forms unnecessarily, especially for lower rise buildings.

“There is other evidence that can prove a building is safe, which we would encourage lenders to accept for valuations.

“We’re also working with professional bodies to address capacity issues in cases where assessments are genuinely needed in order to help resolve this issue urgently.”