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The Australian Nightmare

Building ministers from around the country are trying to work out how to restore confidence in the construction sector following the emergency evacuation of two Sydney apartment blocks when structural cracks appeared.
ABC 7.30 Report
Jules Holman

Flammable cladding: State to pay to fix building industry's shoddy work

The bill to fix hundreds of private buildings around Victoria covered in highly flammable cladding will be in part picked up by the state government, Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday. The move will cost the state $600 million initially, to rectify works approved and completed by the largely deregulated surveying, fire engineering and construction industry. An estimate by planners at RMIT earlier this year found the repair bill for all of Victoria's apartments covered in flammable cladding would be up to $1.6 billion. Until now, home owners who discovered their apartment was covered in flammable cladding have been told it is their job to pay for it to be fixed.
The Age
Clay Lucas and Adam Carey

Victoria to fund cladding rectification of privately owned buildings

Victoria will fund the rectification of privately owned buildings with combustible cladding, a move that could cost billions of dollars and makes it the first state to take a step industry commentators said was inevitable.
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

'No way of knowing' how many strata buildings in Australia could crack

The alarming rise in New South Wales apartment buildings found with cracks is a nation-wide issue that 'has been building over the last 20 years.' Strata lawyer Stephen Goddard from the Owners Corporation Network has told Sky News the discovery of cracks in three NSW buildings has raised alarm bells in the building industry. 'One building is an accident, two’s a coincidence and three is systemic failure,' he says. Mr Goddard has accused the building industry of being 'self-serving without oversight' and has called for a building commissioner to be appointed to regulate the industry. Mr Goddard also says there is 'no way of knowing' how many other buildings in NSW or Australia could be found with cracks jeopardising their structural integrity.
News.com.au

Danger Sydney apartment defects revealed in Zetland block

A third Sydney apartment block is under scrutiny over building and safety issues after it was revealed its residents were evacuated last year. Residents from the 30 loft-style apartments at 19 Gadigal Avenue in Zetland, in Sydney's southwest were evacuated late last year, while City of Sydney staff had inspected the building in February and found it had "extensive and severe water damage", a city spokesman said.   Stephen Goddard from the Owners Corporation Network also told 9News he was distressed after people were made homeless by the defects. "We have lived with building defects for the last 20 years, but we're now having structural defects that are a threat to live (with) safely - causing people to evacuate," he said. "(There is) no silver bullet solution - there's no 20-minute solution to this story."
9 News
AAP

'It hasn't worked': Premier admits Sydney's building industry is failing

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the system of regulation in the building industry is not working, after the Herald revealed the evacuation of a third apartment building in Sydney. As the state opposition called for an immediate response to the growing number of building defects emerging in the city, Ms Berejiklian said she wanted to "assure the community that we know there's a problem. "We know there's a gap in legislation," she said. "We allowed the industry to self-regulate and it hasn't worked. There are too many challenges, too many problems, and that's why the government's willing to legislate." One of the reforms proposed by the Berejiklian government is the creation of a "building commissioner" position, which would have power to investigate construction sites. Ms McKay called for that role to be established immediately, and described the situation as a "ticking time bomb". "I think we will have more and more of these buildings come to light," she said. "Right now we have no building commissioner in place because this government won't release the details. "If you are serious ... then tell us about the building commissioner. Put that commissioner in place right now, ensure they are resourced, and ensure they have the power to be there."
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick Megan Gorrey and Lisa Visentin

Zetland apartments abandoned in secret evacuation over 'severe' defects

An inner Sydney apartment building remains abandoned eight months after its occupants were evacuated over water and fire safety defects, in revelations expected to deliver a fresh blow to confidence in the city's building standards. The emergence of a third residential unit building with severe defects will intensify pressure on the state government to address concerns about building standards. Cracking forced the evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park's Opal Tower on Christmas Eve and the Mascot Towers on Bourke Street last month. Less than a month ago, the minister responsible for the building industry, Kevin Anderson, said there was no "great cause for alarm" about building quality with no need to rush into reforms. Owners Corporation Network spokesperson Stephen Goddard said there has been a "conspiracy of silence" around building defects for years due to confidential legal settlements and owners' fears of damage to property values.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Carrie Fellner Laura Chung Jacob Saulwick

Mascot Towers incident: Negative stigma could impact unit prices in troubled building

Unfortunate owners in the Mascot Towers complex could see up to 40 per cent of their affected units’ value wiped away due to negative stigma attached to the building. In scenes similar to what happened with the Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park, residents were evacuated on Friday night and structural support added to the building in Mascot after it was noticed that cracks in the building were getting wider. “Consumers have nowhere to go in these sorts of situations, there’s nobody for them to sue, there’s nowhere for them to turn,” Stephen Goddard, a spokesperson for the Owners Corporation Network, told the ABC. “Anybody looking to purchase in a building less than 10 years of age is foolish because the defects will not have yet surfaced. “People have more consumer protection buying a fridge than a million-dollar apartment.” Apartment owners within the building will now need to pay for repairs, likely through increased strata levies. Of the 392 units in the Opal Tower building, 155 of them are still unable to be reoccupied six months after it was evacuated on Christmas Eve last year. “We’re now seeing owners confronted with the possibility that their investment … may be lower than their outstanding mortgage,” Mr Goddard added.

‘Daunting’ reality for strata lot owners after Mascot Towers evacuation

Strata lot owners could have to pay for building repairs after the Mascot Towers residents were evacuated. Engineers evacuated the building after they became concerned about cracks in the walls of the 10-year-old apartment complex. Apartment owners will reportedly have to foot the bill for repairs as the building is too old to come under warranty protection. Owners Corporation Network President Gary Petherbridge tells Ross Greenwood the problem is systemic. “People shouldn’t be buying off the plan anymore, you’re better off to wait 10 years until the property is sorted out.”  
2GB
Ross Greenwood

Boycott: Is it time we had an off-the-plan ban?

The advice from Owners Corporation Network spokesman Stephen Goddard could not have been more blunt: Don’t buy apartments off the plan. His actual words in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney's dirty strata secrets emerge through cracks in Mascot Towers -See post below for full story) were “prudent purchasers cannot buy strata ‘off the plan’ or, given that most defects emerge within a decade of construction, any residential strata building less than 10 years of age.” Mr Goddard, a strata lawyer and veteran of many a unit block battle against dodgy developers, has a point, notwithstanding the fact that the Mascot Tower that started falling apart a couple of weekends ago is actually 11 years old. All that shows is that even extreme caution will not protect you if you put your money into the wrong chunk of concrete and glass. The OCN and this website and newspaper column have been making those sorts of noises for years, largely ignored or dismissed by a conga line of training-wheel Fair Trading ministers, some of whom have in the past seemed more concerned about the party donations (rather than guarantees) that they could extract from developers. Their consistent failure to impose any sort of quality control on developers and builders have led us into a situation where we are simply waiting for the next brick to fall.  The one thing on which all observers agree is that Opal and Mascot Towers are not the last examples of government and corporate failure that we will see.
Flat Chat
Jimmy Thompson

Aussie state government steps in to help stranded Sydney residents after building foundation cracks

SYDNEY, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Residents of Sydney's Mascot Towers, which were evacuated earlier this month due to suspected structural damage, will receive financial support from the New South Wales State Government to cover the costs of temporary accommodation. State government officials said on Sunday that residents of the around 10-year-old building will be able to apply for the costs of daily accommodation for a period up to three months. Owners Corporation Network chairperson and strata solicitor, Stephen Goddard told Xinhua that he welcomed the government stepping in to address the immediate needs of residents. "The people who were removed from Mascot Towers nine days ago left without even a toothbrush and they have only been allowed to go back to get some personal effects yesterday," Goddard said. Both renters and owner occupiers are eligible for the payments which are capped at 152 U.S. dollars per night for one bedroom apartments, 208 U.S. dollars for two bedrooms and 277 U.S. dollars for three bedroom dwellings. "Ultimately, we've got to do the right thing by them, they've been in a terrible situation," Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson told reporters outside Mascot Towers. Both Anderson and Goddard agreed that the construction process in Sydney is in need of reform and will meet later in the week to discuss the issue. "None of us know how many buildings are out there like Mascot - there could be more," Goddard said. "We've been living in a community where the building industry has been operating literally unsupervised. The focus now must be how to prevent these buildings from continuing," Goddard said.
Xinhua Net
Li Xia

Minister defends city's high-rise housing

The Minister for Better Regulation has denied there are widespread problems in the city's high-rise residential housing sector, saying "I don’t believe there is any great cause for alarm for other apartment buildings across Sydney". Announcing an emergency financial assistance package for residents of the beleaguered Mascot Towers block on Sunday, Minister Kevin Anderson said the NSW government would restore "confidence" with "the biggest shake-up of the construction industry that this state has ever seen". He said this would start with the creation of a building commissioner to "look at accountability, transparency and the quality of buildings that will be going up in the future". However, a spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network, Stephen Goddard, said he did not share Mr Anderson's sanguine view. He told the Herald that studies had indicated a high proportion of all new residential strata were prone to defects, mainly in the areas of water penetration, fire safety and flawed facades. The Opal Tower, which was evacuated on Christmas Eve because of cracking in parts of the concrete structure, had been a “turning point” Mr Goddard said. “If Opal was a turning point, Mascot [Towers] must be a last straw, and that does not mean there are no more straws left,” he said.      
Sydney Morning Herald
Deborah Snow

Mascot Tower owners crowdfunds to raise $1m

Sydney Mascot Tower owners have started crowdfunding to raise money after an owners' meeting on Thursday elected to raise a special levy of $1.1 million to fix the defective building. The Owners Corporation Network agrees it is time for governments to look at better consumer protections for homebuyers. Strata management also needs another look-in while homebuyers, particularly the growing number of apartment owners, need to continue take an active interest in the upkeep of their building. "As people take possession of their shiny new homes or investments at the end of the building boom they should budget for more than mortgage repayments," Owners Corporation Network Karen Stiles said. "All but a lucky few new apartment owners will face additional levies to deal with the inevitable building inspections, drawn out disputes with builder, the possible liquidation of the builder." "This is happening every day but, until two recent emergency evacuations, owners and tenants have suffered in a terrible conspiracy of silence. It's time for governments to act to protect its citizens."
Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan