We need a clear cladding policy – now!

By Barbara Francis and Rus Littleton

We are still waiting for a coherent government policy on combustible cladding that can provide clarity for owners’ corporations (OCs) facing massive bills for rectification.

More and more buildings are getting caught up in the nightmare, receiving building orders with no appropriate follow up, and no end in sight.

In 2018, the government’s ill-fated attempt to introduce a loan scheme ended barely 12 months later. The government itself deemed the scheme unworkable, something which We Live Here had pointed out to them, long before the scheme was introduced into Parliament. 

In July 2019, Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) was established by the Premier of Victoria and the Minister for Planning. CSV was tasked with the responsibility for rectifying higher risk buildings identified by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) through a state-wide cladding audit.

Audits? Nothing to see here, move along

Would you like to know the outcome of the audits? Sorry, it seems we residents do not have that privilege. Nowhere can we find any information on the outcome of the audits. 

A map on the VBA website shows the number of audits carried out within each municipality and we can see that more than 2200 audits have been conducted in Melbourne. 

And that’s about all you can glean from the VBA cladding web page. 

The government needs to communicate much better than this. 

For a start we want the Premier and the Minister for Planning to answer these questions:

What criteria are used to deem a building to be high, moderate or low risk?

What was the determining factor for the 15 buildings selected for government funding?

What happens to the owners in the other 1054 cladding-affected buildings identified by the VBA as being a danger to life? Are these buildings suddenly no longer a danger to life?

Why the secrecy – can we please have some honesty?

We apartment owners inherited the problem created by dodgy construction and reckless government oversight.

The cladding lottery – 15 lucky winners!

Congratulations! Of the 1069 buildings in Victoria identified with cladding that is a “danger to life” – 15 will benefit from the government’s meagre munificence.

To the other 1054 buildings who played the game, thanks for investing your life savings in your residence - and good luck with that!

This outcome proves what we have been saying for many months – the state government has not been able to raise enough money to make any meaningful impact on the massive extent of the cladding scandal.

And it proves our oft-repeated allegations that the real budget figure has always been: $150 million – not the risible $600 million figure that made a really great sound bite, swallowed whole by the mainstream media last year.

You can find evidence of the government’s figure of $150 million in the State’s Treasury papers and the same figure is confirmed by the Baillieu-Thwaites report – albeit in small print. The figure of $600 million is as fake and as meaningless as the 1069 certificates of occupancy that the government authorised for buildings with flammable cladding. 

$400,000 fines for Building Orders?

Failure to comply with a Building Order to undertake rectification works, is an offence pursuant to section 118(1) of the Building Act (1993). For a body corporate, the maximum penalty is just over $400,000. If your OC is charged with an offence under the Act, the matter would be heard in the Magistrates Court.

It is a no-win situation and frankly a disgrace that the government should yet again ignore the thousands of owner-occupiers who live in high-rise strata communities.

This is a scandal of monumental proportions. And the culpable parties - the government and the building industry - are trying to get away with it.

Tell us about your cladding issues

We Live Here would like to hear from buildings that have been caught up in the combustible cladding issue and how you have dealt with it, or are currently dealing with it. Please head over to our website at welivehere.net and go to the “Cladding Survey” page. Alternatively, you can email us at [email protected]

We need facts. Facts are ammunition to take to the government to demonstrate the impact their feeble legislation is having on OCs having to manage the consequences of combustible cladding.

Thank you in anticipation - we look forward to hearing from you.

Your resident stories

Thank you to all those who have contributed to date, we will publish more throughout the year, so keep your cards and letters coming in!

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