It’s raining election promises, but nothing in sight for owners’ corporations
What has been most surprising during this most recent election campaign is that there has been no post-election commitment to fund Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) from either of the major parties.
Maybe they don’t think there’s any votes in it?
Without desperate and emergency funding being allocated to the struggling government agency, hundreds of residential apartment buildings are going to be left on their own without taxpayer-funded relief.
The CSV was established in 2019, and the government announced this new agency with much fanfare and to great applause. However, problems soon emerged. The problem was far bigger and more widespread (and costly) than the original bean counters had envisaged.
While rapid progress has been made with cladding removal and replacement, issues have emerged that go beyond the purview and tenure of CSV, particularly in relation to building defects beyond the scope of combustible cladding removal.
It should also be noted that while CSV’s focus has been directed at rectifying buildings prioritised as highest risk, it also had an important role to play in providing guidance to owners of buildings assessed as a lower priority who may still need to take action to reduce the risk posed by combustible cladding but are ineligible for CSV funding.
CSV has acquired world-leading expertise in this area over the past two years and is in a position to apply that expertise in a practical way to help owners. A comprehensive plan is required to deal with these buildings and CSV is contributing to this with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Victorian Building Authority (VBA), local government and other stakeholders.
However, with no more funding being announced, the program will shortly be unable to continue to deliver upon its promises, and its statutory purpose.
This will create a huge outcry when it finally happens. Melburnians don’t expect to be left high and dry when it comes to the supposed equal distribution of taxpayer-funded resources. Those who get left out will have a bitter taste in their mouths when their place in the program is taken away and are told they can no longer rely on funding from the CSV.
While cladding can elevate a building’s fire risk to an unacceptable level, the level of risk posed to building users varies in accordance with the type, amount and configuration of cladding on each building. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce recognised that a balanced approach is needed to ensure that safety obligations imposed on building owners are proportionate to the risk posed by combustible cladding.
Buildings identified as moderate risk in the audit will need to be further assessed to determine if they require replacement of combustible cladding or whether other steps can be taken to enable them to be categorised as low risk and compliant with the Cladding Safety Victoria Act 2020.
Owners’ corporation groups that have the ear of parliamentarians will need to do their best to ensure that funding can be found to resolve this situation. It is imperative that Melbourne’s apartment buildings are made safe and compliant with the Building Code of Australia. After all, it is not the building owners’ fault that this situation has occurred.
Decades of lax government building regulations and building industry self-certification has created this problem. A solution to this issue is required urgently. •