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Election campaign home buyer focus overlooking quality issues: SCA

Housing policies released during the federal election campaign are aiming at first home buyer affordability concerns while overlooking quality issues, the Strata Community Association (SCA) said today.

SCA says the size of the strata industry and its impact on Australian life is growing, but research suggests as many as 85% of residential multi-owned properties have at least one building defect, with an average of 14 defects per building.

“The tragedy of the Grenfell Towers fire, which will mark its grim five-year anniversary in June this year and the financial ruin experienced by so many in the Mascot and Opal Towers buildings are a stark reminder that we must do better with buildings,” SCA National President Chris Duggan says.

“The last thing we need is a first home buyer going out and buying into another Opal or Mascot Towers, or being hit with a huge bill to pull down dangerous and flammable cladding.”

SCA has called on political parties to commit to model guidance from the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence Report and to support rating tools that give consumers more transparency. It also proposes expanding building warranty schemes to include properties of more than three storeys, and an exploration of decennial liability insurance.

“We know the path forward, but we need leadership and cooperation between governments to get there, not just in one state or territory, but across the whole of Australia,” Mr Duggan said.

The Grenfell Towers disaster in London raised the alarm on flammable cladding. A fire at the Lacrosse building in Melbourne’s Docklands also exposed cladding issues, while residents of the Opal and Mascot high-rise properties in Sydney were evacuated following cracking and structural concerns.

SCA says 5 million people – about 20% of the Australian population – live in strata and the total value of dwellings is $1.3 trillion.

A Centre of International Economics report commissioned by the Australian Building Codes Board found the cost to consumers from building defects relating to regulatory non-compliance is $2.5 billion a year, including $1.3 billion attributed to multi-storey apartment buildings.