The Victorian Greens are calling on the Andrews Government to take responsibility for the safety of Victorians living in danger from unsafe building cladding.
After the fires at the Docklands and Grenfell towers, many people fear they are living in apartment buildings that are at higher risk of fire because of the use of flammable cladding. Audits of buildings have found several buildings in need of immediate safety works but the burden of cost has fallen to individual owners. This is despite the Government’s own taskforce finding that the danger has arisen because of a systematic failure of regulation, compliance and enforcement.
Individual owners have been asked to meet upfront costs of fixing flammable cladding, estimated, to be $60,000 per dwelling, and launch their own legal proceedings to recoup costs from builders or developers responsible. The majority of owners would also have to agree (and pay for) the work for it to proceed.
Many residents now face an impossible choice - live with imminent danger or face financial ruin as they are unable to meet the costs of replacing dangerous cladding.
The Victorian Greens are calling for the establishment of the Cladding Safety Fund to help owners cover initial costs of making dangerous buildings safe and pursue damages.
Residents in buildings that have been ordered to improve safety immediately would be able to access the funds for building works and the Government’s financial outlay will be offset once damages have been recouped from those responsible. The initial amount in the fund is still to be determined, but $50 million would cover at least 800 dwellings.
The responsibility to fix buildings and recoup costs should lie with the State Government rather than individual residents.
To date, Labor’s priority has been to identify at risk buildings, but it has failed to provide a solution for the people living in them. A City of Melbourne audit found that out of 170 buildings inspected, 3 were high risk and were issued with notices to improve safety immediately.
The current situation for residents boils down to fronting up $60,000 plus legal costs to live in a safe apartment, or continue to live in danger. Renters have even less options, and insurance premiums have quadrupled.
Responsibility should lie with the Government because one of its main functions is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and the cladding crisis was compounded by a failed system of regulation and enforcement.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens spokesperson for planning, Samantha Ratnam
“Through no fault of their own, many Victorians are living in unsafe buildings with no realistic way to fix the situation.
“We know these buildings are unsafe and we know how to fix them. Now we need the State Government to step up and take the necessary steps so residents can stop living in limbo.
“We’ve known about this issue for months and the Andrews Government has failed to provide a solution. The Greens have the solution, and it should be put into practice as soon as possible so the people affected by dodgy building practices can live with peace of mind.”