Combustible cladding removal costs leave Melbourne apartment owners in a bind

THE Victorian Government has coughed up with a $600M package to fix buildings with combustible cladding … but its hands are tied … its means are restricted … how can it surmount an OBSTACLE not of its creation … but one from a greater height … ?

IS this CLADDING CRISIS, a consequence of DEREGULATION … the loss of Australian Standardscutting ‘Red Tape’ …. and Federal Government Policies … a Building Boom that was unable to keep up with the supply for its Foreign Demand … so industry-wide they fast-tracked by the use of cheap combustible cladding … to make a Motzer … ?

AND in order to maintain their coffers … to ensure the foreign demand … and the ‘hot money’ … the Property Titans annointed the author of their Property Council of Australia (the PCA) Policy to the highest office in the Land

*AND that’s perhaps WHY the deviloper crims have got off Scott-free from the cost of removal and replacement of the dangerous dodgy combustible material thousands of ’em across Australia … as they continue to Phoenix their companies too! …

Combustible cladding removal costs leave Melbourne apartment owners in a bind

By state political reporter Bridget Rollason

26 DECEMBER 2019

Anais Wood in her kitchen preparing to pour water into two glasses.

PHOTO: Anais Wood did not even know what cladding was until she received her notice from the council. (ABC News)

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Anais Wood saved up for years to buy her dream home, but it quickly became one of the worst decisions of her life.

Key points:

  • Ms Wood will have to foot a huge bill to remove combustible cladding
  • She, like many other property owners, faces prosecution if she does not comply
  • An agency set up to support building owners says there is too little money to help them all

The 26-year-old moved into her apartment in Melbourne’s south-east last year, but two months later she was told the building was covered in combustible cladding, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove.

Months after the Victorian Government set up a new body to foot the bill for cladding rectification works, Ms Wood will have to get rid of the dangerous material at her own expense.

She received a letter from her local council that stated she had five months to remove the cladding it described as a “danger to life”, or she faced criminal conviction.

Michelle Wood (left) and Anais Wood (right) stand close together outside Anais Wood's apartment building.

PHOTO: Michelle and Anais Wood are shocked at how much money they must now find. (ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

But the organisation set up to support building owners in her position, Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV), said Ms Wood’s situation was not dangerous enough to qualify her for compensation.

“I didn’t even know what cladding actually meant when I received the notice,” Ms Wood said.

“It took me years to find what I was looking for, I finally found my perfect home but basically from day dot it’s been a nightmare.”

Ms Wood’s mother, Michelle, has been trying to help her daughter deal with the stress and confusion.

“It was pretty upsetting for her having bought her first apartment and to be faced with something like this — we had absolutely no idea of the costs or to what extent the building was covered in cladding,” she said.

“We are going to have to come up with the funds to have this cladding removed because we’ve been told we’ll get absolutely no funding at all, because there just isn’t enough money to cover everybody.”

The outside of an apartment building with combustible cladding.

PHOTO: A local council called the cladding on this building a “danger to life”. (ABC News)

Michelle Wood said they had received one quote for $40,000 for the removal, and another quote for the same project for more than $200,000.

“It’s very stressful because we don’t know if we are going to be ripped off,” she said.

“Morally we don’t believe we should have to fund it, it’s not the owner’s problem that the cladding was put on there — you rely on the correct authorities to make the right decisions in relation to the building and building materials.”

Retiree faces loss of super to fix cladding

In July, the Victorian Government announced a $600 million package to fix buildings with dodgy cladding.

It set up CSV to oversee the process.

A new building levy, which could see permit costs for apartment developments in Melbourne rise significantly, will come into force on January 1 to cover the costs of the cladding removal program.

But many homeowners still cannot get compensation, with councils threatening court action if they do not fork out for the repairs.

*CAAN: ALERT for Boomers/Retirees looking to ‘DOWNSIZE’ …not only are you giving devilopers more opportunities to ‘house bank’ our streets to build for money launderers … but you may end up far worse off … Read more! *

*Graham Arvidson sold his family home of 37 years to retire to a townhouse near the beach at Carrum, in Melbourne’s south-east.

A few months later, he learnt it was covered with combustible cladding and was assessed to be a high-risk building.

“It’s greatly devalued our property,” Mr Arvidson said.

“Rather than the superannuation we have worked hard for to be used to live, we’re going to have to pay for the replacement of the cladding.”

Graham Arvidson stands in front of a wall outside his property wearing a t-shirt and cap.

PHOTO: Graham Arvidson thinks it is unlikely he will receive compensation. (ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

Mr Arvidson received a letter from his local council demanding the cladding be removed by December 22, or he would face huge fines.

He has requested an extension because he is yet to hear whether CSV will cover the costs — which he said was unlikely given his building was not in the highest risk category.

He is particularly worried about his safety during summer, as many neighbouring properties host barbeques over the festive season.

Victorians with lower-risk cladding told to sort it themselves

CSV plans to remove combustible cladding from 100 buildings a year, for the next five years.

Chief executive officer Dan O’Brien said there simply was not enough money to go around to cover every building in Victoria that has the cladding.

“We can’t deal with all buildings, so we are dealing with the highest-risk buildings,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The intention for us at this point in time is to focus on financial assistance for the higher-risk buildings.

“Those in the lower-risk categories are expected to undertake the works and fund it themselves.”

The Government has identified 15 buildings to be fixed first using the taxpayer funds, but has not revealed which ones.

“Those who don’t have buildings listed as extreme should work with their local council to see what needs to be done to meet the terms of the building notice,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s a difficult situation, but if it’s lower risk it probably means less needs to be done to make the building safer.”

VIDEO: Fire raced up flammable cladding on Melbourne’s Neo200 complex in February. (ABC News)

It is not known how many buildings with the cladding will not qualify for compensation funding, but a statewide audit has identified more than 850 properties deemed to be between extreme and moderate risk.

The Opposition’s planning spokesman Tim Smith said it was unfair homeowners had been left in limbo over Christmas.

“These people, through no fault of their own, are caught up in this terrible situation and now they’re being told that they can’t be helped by the Government,” Mr Smith said.

“Despite the fact the councils are telling them the building they live in is a danger to life, CSV and the Andrews Government say it’s not dangerous enough and you have to pay.

“I just don’t think that’s fair.”

Mr Smith said $600 million was not enough funding and the real cost of removing cladding from buildings in Victoria was more like $2.2 billion.

“The Government said they’d help everyone that was caught up in the cladding crisis,” he said.

“Instead they’ve said ‘you’re on your own’.”

Housing and Planning Minister Richard Wynne referred the ABC’s enquiries back to CSV.