Two years after Grenfell Tower fire, hundreds of buildings await safety upgrades

The British government promised to replace flammable cladding in 433 buildings, but only 100 have been fixed

Jun.June 02, 2019 09:00 AM
Grenfell Tower, one day after the 2017 fire (Credit: Getty Images)

Grenfell Tower, one day after the fire in 2017 (Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Two years after the Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people in London, hundreds of English buildings remain vulnerable to the same type of tragedy, including some 16,000 private apartments.

Inspectors in 2017 found 433 buildings that were built with the same kind highly flammable steel cladding as Grenfell, and ordered the material removed. But as of this April, only about 100 of the buildings had been fixed, according to the New York Times.

Prime Minister Theresa May and local government officials promised to prevent the tragedy from repeating, approving the equivalent of more than $500 million to replace the cladding from 150 public housing complexes. About a third of the buildings have had the work completed.

The government also put about $254 million into a fund to help private building owners complete the fixes, but many landlords have also charged residents for repairs, in one case to the tune of up to 80,000 pounds each — more than $100,000. Most English apartment managers sign long-term leases instead of buying properties outright, making it difficult for lawmakers to hold them legally liable for the repairs.

The United States and many European countries long ago outlawed the kind of cheap, combustible plastic cladding that quickly caught fire in the Grenfell Tower, but the United Kingdom allows it as long as it’s coated in a non-flammable surface.

Last year, regulators presented a plan to Parliament to update safety measures, but they only proposed to ban use of the cladding in buildings more than six stories tall. [NYT] — Alex Nitkin

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