Top UK housebuilder Redrow has increased the amount of money it has set aside to fix fire safety issues to more than five times an original estimate, in response to tougher demands on developers laid out by housing secretary Michael Gove.
Housebuilders have been trying to move on from a long-running building safety crisis that came to light after the 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower in London.
This week a number of leading builders signed up to a government pledge committing them to fix any potentially unsafe blocks higher than 11m that they were involved in building in England over the past 30 years.
For Redrow, that pledge will mean additional costs of £164mn, far beyond the £36mn the company had previously set aside to remedy issues, taking its total provision to £200mn.
While conceding that leaseholders in affected blocks should not have to pay for repair work, developers have privately bristled at what they describe as unfair targeting by Gove’s department.
Gove told developers earlier this year they would have to dig deeper to fund building safety work, putting them on the hook for the bulk of an estimated £4bn bill to remedy blocks between 11m-18m high. That outlay is on top of a targeted levy on the sector introduced by Gove’s predecessor Robert Jenrick.
Others involved in the process of constructing blocks now regarded as unsafe — including cladding and insulation manufacturers, contracting companies that deliver the buildings and the government bodies setting building regulations — have not been hit with similar bills.
The initial figure earmarked by Redrow covered only those blocks it had built itself, but the much larger provision announced today covers those buildings outsourced for construction to contractors. Redrow said on Wednesday it would try to recover some of those funds from contractors but added there was no guarantee it could do so.
The group said it did not yet know how many buildings were affected and suggested the work might take “a number of years to complete”. It also pointed out that it did not traditionally build above 11m but had been encouraged to do so by the government between 2000 and 2010.
Gove’s demand that builders pay to fix mid-rise and high-rise blocks has been backed up by a threat to cut developers out of government funds and the planning system if they fail to do so. That has spurred the majority of large listed builders to increase their provisions or commit to cover the work within the budgets they had already put aside.
Although Redrow’s share price was down 2.3 per cent in early trading to £5.13, a string of announcements since Tuesday have not hit stock prices across the sector hard, with developers indicating that the costs would be borne over a period of years.
Gove has demanded that 53 developers sign the pledge but the ability of smaller, non-listed builders to bear the costs of repair work is less clear. A number of less well-capitalised private developers have yet to indicate if they will sign and could be shut out of the housing market if they are unable to meet the costs of doing so.