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Australia's building crisis fix will cost $6.2 billion: report

The cost of fixing the unfolding national building crisis, including widespread residential apartment block defects and the use of dangerous combustible cladding, could soar past $6.2 billion, according to a new economic analysis. More than 3400 residential unit blocks across the country have potentially flammable exterior cladding, according to a report commissioned by the construction union. Those high-rise blocks take in about 170,000 apartments. In NSW, hundreds of buildings are potentially affected. Pressure is mounting on the Berejiklian government to provide more support and funding either to individual owners’ corporations, or to Sydney councils confronted with buildings that could need flammable cladding ripped off and replaced.
Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Gorrey and Jacob Saulwick

Four Corners 'Cracking Up'

From shoddy workmanship to lax laws, Australia's apartment building crisis is leaving owners out of pocket and in some cases homeless. Industry insiders reveal a litany of failures that could leave defects for years to come.
ABC Four Corners
Sean Nicholls

NSW government scrambles for answers at building defects inquiry

The pain of NSW's building crisis was captured in Mascot Towers owner Vijay Vital's testimony at the inquiry, when he broke down describing the loss of his home. Mascot Towers was evacuated on June 14 due to cracks but engineers have yet to find the cause. "I stand here as a parent and my daughter asks me "when  can I go home?" he said amid tears. "I have done everything right and I shouldn't be accountable for this." The Owners Corporation Network (OCN) told the inquiry the question of "who should pay" needs to be addressed now. In the first instance, the government and building practitioners should pay for defects in buildings including those of Opal and Mascot Towers having received stamp duty and earned profits from development respectively, OCN said.
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

'Better off buying a caravan': NSW unit owners voice anger at industry

A resident of one of Sydney's several evacuated apartment buildings has broken down in tears before a parliamentary inquiry when describing the uncertainty he and his young family are now facing. Vijay Vital, who was evacuated from Sydney's Mascot Towers on June 14, was overcome with emotion when he addressed the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the state's building standards on Monday. The upper house committee heard from several residents affected by mass evacuations in recent months as well as bureaucrats still working to implement laws passed by the government last year. Another Mascot Towers resident, Alton Chen, told the inquiry he may have been better off investing in a caravan.  "Perhaps what I should have done is invest in a caravan because at least, if it was burnt down, at least I'd be covered by the insurance," he said.  
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tom Rabe

Hunter building standards under scrutiny in new parliamentary inquiry

There's a new parliamentary inquiry underway in NSW into building standards. It was prompted by serious worries about the safety of some apartment buildings, including Sydney's Mascot Towers and the Opal Tower. Closer to home, there's been concerns about allegedly defective work at a high rise residential and commercial building in Charlestown. So, why are these buildings being investigated? And how many other buildings in the Hunter will be under scrutiny? ABC Newcastle's Dan Cox spoke to David Shoebridge, Green MP who will lead the parliamentary inquiry into the regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.
ABC Radio Newcastle
Jenny Marchant and Dan Cox

'Outrageous': Apartment giant blasts nation's building standards

The boss of one of Australia's largest apartment developers, Mirvac, has called for an urgent lift in building standards, describing the sale of defective units as a "breach of faith". Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz on Thursday called for swift improvements to construction practices and better outcomes for consumers when things went wrong. "Of particular urgency currently is the need to raise building standards in Australia," she said. Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz said it was "unacceptable" families who bought or rented apartments in good faith could find themselves without a home to live in and then face years of legal battles and substantial costs to rectify buildings. "It's an outrageous situation as people bought them in good faith and now they have to battle through the legal processes," she said. "This breach of faith is more than just a transaction gone wrong. These homes represent the life savings and dreams of Australians who have invested their futures in those homes."
The Sydney Morning Herald
Simon Johanson and Carolyn Cummins

Mascot Towers Owners Hit $76,000 per Unit

Owners of apartments in the evacuated Mascot Towers building in Sydney are planning to sleep on the street to protest a damages bill of at least $76,000 per unit to fix defects, as questions continue on who will ultimately have to pay. The owners face a $10 million bill – half the initial building cost of $22 million – to fix cracks in the building's primary support structure, according to the notice for an owners meeting to be held on August 22. "As the NSW premier has said, self-regulation has failed, leaving a legacy of defects and distress," Owners Corporation Network executive officer Karen Stiles said. "The immediate task is to put in place a rescue package for strata schemes struggling right now."
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

Mascot Towers repair bill passes $10 million as residents hit with special levy funding arrangement

In a move one resident described as "devastating", the ABC can reveal owners will vote on a $10 million "special levy" to fund "stage one" of the remedial works for the 132-unit block in a meeting later this month. The Mascot Towers complex in Sydney's south was evacuated in June after engineers spotted cracking in the primary support structure. It came six months after Opal Tower in Sydney's west was evacuated on Christmas Eve for similar structural problems. In the minutes of an owners meeting to be held on August 22, owners will be forced to vote on the $10 million levy to fund the works, with the money paid in quarterly instalments over 15 years.
ABC News
Liv Casben and Nick Sas

Building certifiers leave a trail of chaos

A small group of private certifiers have signed off on 130 buildings with compliance problems, including allowing residents to move into one property that did not have toilets or taps fitted. The six offenders have been hit with 111 disciplinary actions since 2005, accounting for about a quarter of all such penalties. The Owners' Corporation Network, the peak body for apartment owners, said the repeat offending was further evidence of "deep systemic problems" in the industry. "It is symptomatic of a government that has forgotten how to regulate," chairman Phil Gall said. "The Building Professionals Board was overseen by the planning minister until 2016, when it became the responsibility of the minister for better regulation. "Three years later we still have serious problems," Mr Gall said. "How did the ministers involved not know this reform wasn't working?"
The Sydney Morning Herald
Carrie Fellner and Nigel Gladstone

Call for NSW building commissioner to enact acute 30-day plan

New NSW building commissioner David Chandler should strike an acute 30-day plan to help beleaguered homeowners who have been evacuated from their defective homes, ahead of larger plans to overhaul the industry, industry groups say. NSW appointed Mr Chandler, a building and construction expert and University of Western Sydney adjunct professor, as the state's first building commissioner on Thursday in an effort to rehabilitate the state's ailing building industry after several apartment buildings had to be evacuated. A spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network added: "The immediate task is to put in place a rescue package for strata schemes struggling right now."
The Australian Financial Review
Su-Lin Tan

David Chandler OAM Appointed NSW Building Commissioner

Home owners will be better protected following the appointment of building and construction expert David Chandler OAM as NSW Building Commissioner. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the appointment of Mr Chandler was part of the NSW Government’s commitment to implementing the biggest overhaul to building laws in the State’s history. “David has more than 40 years’ industry experience, which will be invaluable as we move to restore confidence in the building and construction industry,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We know there are national challenges affecting the industry, but this new appointment will play a key role in protecting NSW homeowners and driving critical reforms.” The Building Commissioner will be responsible for the investigation and disciplinary action for misconduct in the building industry while overseeing the end to end licensing and auditing across the building industry.  The Commissioner will also drive legislative reforms of the building industry, including consultation with industry. Mr Chandler will start in the position on 14 August 2019.

What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville