400 combustible clad buildings to be fixed

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THE Victorian government is accelerating its flammable cladding rectification program to fix up to 400 buildings, in a bid help the building and construction sector as well save thousands of homeowners already struggling financially due to COVID-19 from financial ruin.

The government will bring forward the scheme to start work on 400 buildings within two years, doubling its original budget of $600 million for 100 buildings per year. This new model does not change the buildings already identified as in scope within the rectification program – no buildings will be taken out or added.

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said fast tracking of the program will create thousands of jobs as the economy rebuilds from the coronavirus pandemic.

Wynne said only reputable builders will be eligible for the accelerated program. Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) will work with a select group of reputable builders to rectify their projects at no-profit.

“Those found to have done the wrong thing will not be able to participate. This is a chance for the original builders to become part of the solution and keep their workers employed during these challenging times,” the minister said.

APIV chair and founding member of the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition (IFFSC), Robert Hecek welcomed the announcement, particularly at a time when the issue of flammable cladding has taken a backseat as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a world leading move by the Victorian state government to fast track the rectification of flammable clad buildings and enable safe living areas for the unfortunate owners stuck in this global situation.

“This will go a long way to rectifying the flammable cladding issue in Victoria and will give reprieve to many owners who have been under health, financial stress and safety concerns for some time,” he added.

“The global issue of the flammable cladding is largely sidelined by most nations due to the continuous cost estimates blowout and with current and ongoing COVID-19 problem, hence the Victorian government move at this time of global crisis is to be applauded and hope will act as an example to the world.

“It would be appropriate for all states to follow the lead and allocate similar amounts to fund the flammable cladding removal for helpless consumers who are caught in the turmoil of funding versus personal safety to consumers,” Hecek said.

Under the scheme administered by CSV, participating builders must pass rigorous government checks and have no relevant or significant pending or past disciplinary action on their records. Payments will only be made once milestones have been reached and work quality has been confirmed.

In cases where builders are ineligible to participate the existing process remains in place, and the government will proceed with its cost recovery process so that building practitioners that have done the wrong thing are financially liable. Owners who do not want to work with the original builder do not have to participate in the fast-tracked program, however they will still have their buildings rectified by CSV.

The government’s original budget allocated $600 million to fix 100 buildings per year. Last year Victoria was the first jurisdiction in Australia and second to the United Kingdom globally to introduce a rectification scheme.

But at the time some in the industry believed the $600 million package would not be enough. A study by RMIT University of 629 known buildings estimate the bill could be as high as $1.6 billion.

However, Victoria is not alone, an Equity Economics report found more than 3,400 apartment buildings across Australia contain defects and non-compliant combustible cladding. In New South Wales, the LGNSW has called for the release of 400-plus flammable clad buildings.

Nationally Equity Economics estimates it will cost owners $6.2 billion to rectify.

A Deakin and Griffith universities joint report said apartment owners and investors face potential financial ruin to fix building defects such as cracking, dangerous cladding or other fire safety breaches.

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