Congratulations to 300 cladding winners!

Congratulations to 300 cladding winners!
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

The latest figures from Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) website show that about 35 per cent of cladding-affected apartment buildings have been selected for financial assistance for remediation works. Only “extreme risk” or “high risk” buildings qualify for state government funding.

The CSV website shows that a total of 802 buildings have been referred to them by the Victorian Building Authority’s state-wide cladding audit. CSV has assessed these buildings for eligibility and risk. From the total referred to CSV, 300 funding agreements have been signed. Cladding remediation work has been completed on 154 buildings and underway on 51 more buildings.

Around this time last year, the CSV annual report showed the figures were 723 buildings referred, 253 funding agreements, 40 buildings completed and 160 buildings underway.

The comparative data also show a consistent funding rate of 35 per cent. In other words, your building has just over a one-in-three chance of obtaining CSV funding to remove flammable cladding.

Owners’ corporations that have been denied CSV support are telling us that the qualification process is opaque. Many buildings have received building orders from their council stating that the cladding is “a risk to life” and yet these dangerous buildings do not qualify for financial support from CSV.

The CSV website also shows that 131 government buildings (94 complete) have been selected for remediation, while the number of apartment buildings out of the 300 (154 complete).

COVID exposes housing crisis

The COVID crisis has affected us all in so many ways – medically, socially and economically. As the world readjusts, researchers are finding that COVID has also been instrumental in exposing the economic downside of short-term rentals.

Housing researcher Professor Peter Phibbs has been analysing data since before COVID and has found disturbing links.

“COVID really showed there’s a connection between the short-term rental market and rents all across Australia, and indeed across the world,” the professor told ABC News this month.

Professor Phibbs has studied the housing crisis in Hobart, which predates COVID. “When housing stock went from short-term rental back to the long-term rental market, in places like Hobart we saw a sharp reduction in rents,” he said.

In the interview, Professor Phibbs estimated that during COVID, rents in Hobart dropped by about nine per cent.

In another study, researchers William Thackway and Christopher Pettit in Sydney found rent prices in the most active short-stay neighbourhoods dropped by up to seven per cent.

The ABC reported Professor Phibbs as saying, the evidence is clear: you cannot have an unregulated short-term accommodation industry and a healthy long-term rental market. “Those two things just can’t co-exist,” he said.

“We need some sort of regulation to limit the spread of short-term rentals so we can enable the long-term rental market to provide homes for so many households that are looking for them at the moment.”

Another expert who backs up this view is Leith van Onselen, chief economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Mr van Onselen, who has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs, is also concerned that short-term rentals like Airbnb are having a major impact on the rental market, exacerbating Australia’s acute shortage of rental homes.

Last month we reported on the steps being taken in jurisdictions around the country to regulate short stays. Sadly, Victoria lags far behind the rest of the country and the world. We are continuing to lobby for meaningful change in Victoria, and the professor has some salient advice for us.

“Making the regulation is probably the easy part,” Professor Phibbs told the ABC. “Enforcing the regulation can be quite difficult. It’s certainly resource-intensive. It sometimes involves quite long legal processes. It’s important to have some kind of taxing regime where short-term rentals pay for the cost of that regulation through some sort of bed tax.”

We Live Here has been highlighting the favourable tax treatment handed out to the short-stay industry at the expense of all other Australians.

We have also highlighted the woeful inadequacy of the enforcement process in the light-touch legislation known colloquially as the Airbnb bill – the short-stay provisions in the amended Owners’ Corporations Act 2021.

Let’s hope the Victorian state government can get behind the economic science presented by respected researchers, study the precedents being set by every other state in Australia, and finally take some real action.

An unfair committee faces a formidable opponent

Nerrida Pohl has provided an update on the committee scandal at her inner-city building …

“I printed out copies for all 500 apartments of the We Live Here article and an article by a retired politician, about my poorly-run five-member committee. A supportive owner-occupier wrote a nice cover letter, calling for new committee candidates. Letters were dropped to all occupants.”

“I had an excellent response. I had tried and failed on four occasions to be elected to this developer-controlled committee. This time the new owners’ corporation laws were on my side – a five per cent cap on proxies and all emails to be made available.”

“Before I was sent the owners roll, the OC manager emailed all owners to apologise that their emails were no longer private, and they could opt out if they wished. I applied to VCAT for urgent access to the email list. As soon as VCAT issued a case number the manager sent it to me.”

“Many residents offered to help reach other lot owners. Many agreed the property was not being well managed. Big investors responded with alacrity and with proxies. I received so many I had to return some.”

“During the faceless AGM webinar, a seven-person committee was agreed to by ordinary vote. A screen then appeared listing only the five names of the old committee which we were required to vote for first. The other candidates were on a second screen to be voted for only after the first vote was done. Some people had already voted, and I just scraped home in seventh place from 12 candidates.”

N.B. Ms Pohl could have challenged the election process in VCAT but decided to quit while she was ahead.

“At least I’m on the committee where I have the choice responsibilities of our flammable cladding politics and the issues that I took to court in the first instance,” she said.

We hope this story of dogged persistence, coupled with the new OC laws will inspire others to take on dodgy developers. Congratulations, Nerrida!

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