ABC 7.30 Report last night spoke to some of Australia’s 2 million apartment dwellers in the wake of the latest evacuation of Mascot Towers after severe cracks were discovered. The segment shines further light on an industry in crisis, with faults widespread and hefty remediation works required.
Below are some key excerpts from the transcript:
JULIA HOLMAN: The Mascot Tower owners will have a long wait before they find out what went wrong with their building but it’s not just the residents here behind me who are worried that they’re living in an unsafe building.
JOHN GRANT: We bought a place at the end of 2011 – beautiful quality apartments.
JULIA HOLMAN: John Grant paid $640,000 for a two-bedroom investment property in this Canberra complex.
It didn’t take long for major defects to appear throughout the building.
JOHN GRANT: We have had tiling problems, there’s water-proofing issues. Tiles have lifted.
You can see the propping of the balcony because we had to do it for safety purposes.
You can see cracking in stairways and we can go for a walk downstairs and have a look at other cracking which is even more dangerous.
JULIA HOLMAN: There’s cracks all along the solid concrete floor.
JOHN GRANT: As you can see here, the cracks have expanded, they have deepened.
It’s an A-class building – unfortunately, the builders are not A-class.
JULIA HOLMAN: Is it safe?
JOHN GRANT: It is safe because of the props that we have put underneath.
These are the props, Julia. We have got 45 props in the basement. As you can see, they cover a fair amount of the basement and they’re there to effectively hold up the floor above.
JULIA HOLMAN: The owners here have already spent $650,000 on expert reports and legal fees.
They’re suing the builder, the developer, and the engineer and they want the ACT government to order the developer to fix the defects.
What is the estimate as to how much it is going to cost to fix them?
JOHN GRANT: Look, our estimate at this stage is somewhere in excess of $9 million.
JULIA HOLMAN: Nine million dollars amongst 120 owners, what does it mean if you end up having to pay it yourself?
JOHN GRANT: Well about $75,000 each. That’s a lot of money.
JULIA HOLMAN: The past decade has seen the biggest apartment construction boom in Australia’s history.
Nearly 700,000 units have been completed, dwarfing the number of houses built over the same period and there’s still many more units coming onto the market…
JULIA HOLMAN: Andy White bought his apartment in central Melbourne for $320,000 four years ago. The building was finished in 2010, but when Andy moved in, it was already showing signs of poor construction.
ANDY WHITE: I believe the owners corp was chasing the builder for close to 100 defects… As we found out from the fire engineer, the whole building is completely flammable now and its almost become a bit of a tourist attraction as people walk by, pointing out how it’s still not fixed, two and a half years later…
JULIA HOLMAN: It will cost an estimated $2 (million) to $3 million to replace the non-compliant cladding.
The builder went into voluntary administration in August last year, which means the residents will have to pay the bill.
As usual, the lobbyists at the Property Council of Australia (PCA) are playing down the problems, claiming Australia’s building standards are among the best in the world:
JULIA HOLMAN: The lobby group representing property developers argues that Australia has some of the best building standards in the world.
KEN MORRISON: Purchasers should take heart from the fact that most issues are relatively minor.
The sorts of incidents we’ve seen in the media in recent months are quite rare and also, that if there are defects, then by law, builders have to come back and fix those defects at their cost and that system has been working well.
The PCA can’t spin this turd. The whole situation is an unmitigated disaster with hundreds of thousands of low quality apartments built this century to house Australia’s ballooning population. Many of these developments are now ticking financial timebombs for owners and taxpayers, who are collectively facing potentially billions of dollars of remediation works to rectify the faults.
Given the seriousness of the issue, the federal government must establish a Royal Commission to investigate the entire industry, from top to bottom.