Elaine Willcox: The Cladding scandal - why it is so unfair?

That's my overwhelming feeling every time I tell the cladding story, how is this fair? 

For generations it's been a universally held fact, owning your own home was a good thing, something to be proud of. So why are those who saved to buy their own apartments being punished for doing just that and it's not their fault?

I first met residents in Manchester's Green Quarter in the summer of 2018, reporting live from their high rise balconies pointing out which parts of their buildings had the same combustible cladding that sent Grenfell Tower into an inferno. They were scared, trapped and angry.

The government for its part has been pretty consistent, those caught up in the cladding scandal were told they shouldn't have to pay. So why do the eye watering repair bills for up to £100,000 keep landing through their door. They shouldn't have to pay, but they are, so how is that fair?

I've spoken to owners who have had their homes repossessed, their dream over along with their credit rating. The couples looking to start a family or have more children but can't because their lives are now on hold. The families who've outgrown their apartments but can't move because the properties are worthless. Those facing bankruptcy, which would end their career in the legal or financial profession, a double whammy for them.

I first met residents in Manchester's Green Quarter in the summer of 2018 - a year after the Grenfell tragedy.

In all of this, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has proved pretty elusive, each time I try to raise the torment of those stuck in unsafe buildings, I'm told ' the Minister is not available for interview'.

I can recite his government statement word for word, pointing to the £1.6 billion safety fund, a drop in the ocean given the scale of the problem. The true figure is probably ten times that.

Then he laid out his plan to parliament, calling it, his 'unprecedented intervention' providing an additional £3.5 billion 'to ensure we end the cladding scandal in a way that is fair and generous to leaseholders'.

Fair - that word again. Behind the soundbites came the detail and much depends on the height of your building: The funding is available to remove unsafe cladding on only high rise buildings of 18 metres and above.

But those living in buildings up to six storeys will have to pay, leaving them trapped in properties and still saddled with debt. Is that fair and are these buildings safer.

Under the government's proposals money would not be given to those under 18 metres high - including this building in Bolton.

Fire ripped through student accommodation in Bolton just as quickly as the Grenfell inferno even though that wasn't 18 metres tall, and it was just sheer luck no one was killed.

That building wouldn't get funding with the government's arbitrary height rule, as experts say the risks are lower. Tell that to the students who ran for their lives.

In telling this story, a group of owners came together calling themselves the Manchester Cladiators, and that's what they are. Giving their time for free, pouring over regulations and small print, they've squared up to the developers, fighting their corner in the courts, lobbying the government and supporting each other in the darkest months of lockdown, one, two and three.

They will keep fighting for those trapped and scared in their own homes and we'll keep sharing their stories.