Apartment owners will have to foot the bill to avoid their own Grenfell Tower tragedy in a Victorian government initiative to speed up the removal of flammable cladding.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced low-interest loans on Thursday, which will be provided to owners and owner corporations by a lender and paid off through council rates over a minimum of 10 years.
Loans would be transferred to new owners if a property is sold.
About 100 apartment buildings in Victoria have been issued orders to replace dangerous cladding.
It comes after a 2014 fire at LaCrosse tower in Docklands and London’s Grenfell blaze that killed 72 people last year.
A taskforce established in July last year found 1369 buildings with the cladding across the state.
The Cladding Rectification Agreement (CRA) announced on Thursday was a key recommendation of the taskforce.
Municipal Association of Victoria CEO Rob Spence told The New Daily he was sympathetic to affected owners, but supported the proposal because the system would help solve the issue.
He said it would benefit owners in the long run.
“If you’ve got a building that’s got flammable cladding on it, and it’s got an [rectification] order on it, the value of your building will have gone down,” Mr Spence said.
“Rectification of it will reinstate the value or may actually increase the value of it above its previous price.”
Mr Spence noted it would not prevent owners from suing a builder or building surveyor.
“The problem with the legal process is, well it’s just a fact of life that the legal process needs to be well considered and take time. And if we waited for owners of buildings to sue builders and others, we’d be waiting for a long time before these buildings were rectified.”
He agreed it meant purchasing an apartment had been a lottery, with owners unaware they would later be slapped with a loan to pay off over 10 or more years.
“That’s an absolutely fair comment. People have entered the market believing that the system was sound and that they were buying something that was safe and an appropriate place to live in.
They thought they were buying something that was quality and fit for purpose.”
A British property owner who lived in a housing complex with the cladding earlier this year said the asking price of her £475,000 ($A871,650) flat collapsed to just £50,000, The Guardian reported at the time.
Scott Williams, CEO of the Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPAA) said it was unfair owners would shoulder the burden.
But he said it would likely speed up the pace of cladding replacement.
“The key importance is on getting buildings rectified and addressing the safety concerns. Anything that helps achieve that is positive,” Mr Williams told The New Daily in a statement.
“But that result doesn’t change the fact that property owners have become unfairly responsible for the cost of rectification through no fault of their own, due to the failure of enforcement and compliance to building standards.”
The Greens wanted the state government to cover the cost and recoup it from responsible builders and developers.
Mr Wynne said the CRA scheme was the first of its kind.
“As well as making properties safe and compliant with building laws, these financing agreements allow cladding to be removed quickly, without affecting property prices.”
The CRAs will act similarly to the existing Environmental Upgrade Agreements, which enable owners to make their homes more environmentally friendly.