HBF working with government to produce reliable numbers as housebuilders say Gove’s £4bn repair estimate is too high

Housebuilders and the government are to jointly produce figures on the number of 11m to18m homes affected by the fire safety crisis and who built them.

Speaking to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee earlier this week, David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said the industry currently did not know how many homes were affected by the problem, adding he did not think the bill for the industry would be “close to” the £4bn suggested last month by Michael Gove.

O’Leary’s comments come after the housing secretary said he expected housebuilders to voluntarily contribute £4bn to pay for the repair of mid-rise buildings affected by fire safety problems, or face the imposition of a levy and a range of other sanctions.

high rise

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The HBF is putting together a figure of how many blocks between 11m and 18m might be affected by cladding problems

Gove later said he wanted construction product manufacturers to contribute as well as all housebuilders with annual profits of more than £10m.

O’Leary said: “I think we need to establish over the next few weeks how much the government is actually looking for. The £4bn figure we’ve heard, I don’t we can get close to that with the information that our members have.”

But he admitted the industry did not have figures of its own yet and said the HBF had been working with the government to draw up detailed information, with Whitehall having set a deadline of this week to pull the numbers together.

O’Leary said: “We’re at the stage of assimilating our information, trying to match it with what information the government has.

“I think we’re still very unsighted on how many buildings need remediation even after all this time [and] where they are [and] who built them.”

Housebuilders have already made clear their concerns that only UK housebuilders, which they say have already contributed £1bn to repairing their own buildings and will also start paying the £2bn Residential Property Developer Tax from this year, are being asked to pay, when many of the buildings affected were built by now defunct developers or overseas businesses.

O’Leary said the government’s £4bn figure might have been inflated because “there are many, many, many buildings […] where there is no longer a developer and they were built by overseas developers or whatever”.

He said he accepted that finding the information on the buildings was something “we wished would have started some time ago”.

The comments came as O’Leary and John Mulryan, group managing director of Anglo-Irish developer Ballymore, both highlighted concerns over the increasing burden of levies and taxes on developers in the wake of the fire safety crisis.

O’Leary said he expected the new 4% Residential Property Developer Tax will actually raise £3bn over the next decade, rather than the £2bn estimated by government, while Mulryan said that because of the way it was calculated, it worked out to effectively a 6% additional tax rate.