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Anger as Victoria cladding fix excludes private owners

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The Victorian Government has provided no funding in its budget for owners to remove flammable cladding from private residential buildings.

About $46.4 million has been set aside next financial year for the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to undertake a risk assessment of private buildings affected by flammable cladding, with a further $45.4 set aside for 2020/21.

Some 480 buildings will be audited next year, and 22 government buildings are undergoing cladding rectification.

About 1274 private dwellings contain unsafe cladding, according to the VBA.

The Builders Collective of Australia estimates it would conservatively cost $800 million to fix the cladding crisis, based on an occupancy average of 50 homes per building. Based on the Melbourne City Council average of 75 private homes per building, it would cost $1.2 billion. Melbourne city is one of the worst-affected areas.

Costs could pass $2.6 billion if the State Government does not step in to drive economy of scale, the collective warns.

“Sole responsibility must not fall on owners who bought supposedly compliant properties,” it says. “By no means should they carry the can on what appears to be a multibillion-dollar… crisis they were not responsible for creating.”

The Cladding Action Group – formed by affected property owners – has slammed the VBA for pursuing owners to pay to fix their properties.

It wants the State Government to follow Queensland’s lead and force building professionals involved in properties with flammable cladding to pay for removal, and give the VBA the power to force builders to act.

Direct funding should be provided to owners if the builder fails to take action, the group says.

“Many people are now facing significant unexpected financial, mental and spatial burdens with little support from industry, governments or the regulator.”

Many owners cannot afford fixes, with some facing bills up to a quarter of the value of their property, the group says.

In March, the VBA had identified 649 privately owned buildings in the metropolitan area featuring flammable cladding.