The almost four year-old debacle surrounding the Mascot Towers apartment complex in Sydney may be finally moving closer to resolution after the New South Wales Government appointed the state’s building commissioner to lead a panel to identify the a solution for the structurally compromised tower.
On Saturday, NSW Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello announced that the government had tasked the NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler to establish a team of industry experts.
The team will examine both the feasibility of remediating the building and any other options which are available to resolve the four-year-long saga for building owners.
It is expected to report in April to whichever party wins the state’s March 25 election.
The latest announcement comes as residents of the trouble plagued Mascot Towers remain in limbo almost four years after the discovery of major structural defects in the building forced all residents to evacuate of June 14, 2019.
As many as 132 apartments remain uninhabitable, with owners being allowed inside their apartments for only three hours per day between 7am and 10am.
To assist owners financially, the government has provided rental assistance packages that range between $2220 and $400 per night.
However, owners still need to pay interest on their mortgages as well as building management costs.
In addition, owners will also need to pay for the building’s rectification.
According to owner Rachel Williams, around fourteen of the families involved are now considering bankruptcy (refer ABC article).
The announcement also comes as the opposition Labor Party promised new assistance to help owners to pay for remediation costs if it wins government by either providing a low-interest loan or acting as a guarantor for a loan.
Both parties have also promised to extend the rental support packages to owners beyond the current June 30 expiration date.
In his announcement, Dominello said the new action would deliver a path forward for residents.
“I have asked the Building Commissioner David Chandler to set up a team of industry experts to not only examine the feasibility of remediating the building but also report back on all other options available to the resolve this matter,” Dominello said.
“Mr Chandler’s report is a crucial first step in finding a solution for the long suffering-owners of Mascot Towers. Without this, owners would remain in limbo with no clear path forward on a course of action.
“Mr Chandler’s reputations speak for itself; he is respected across the industry and his report will provide the evidence base for the owners, the Government and other interest parties to make an informed decision about the future of the building.
“His panel will report back on the viability and potential cost of remediation and provide the associated legal and commercial advice.”
Asked about the length of time taken to achieve a solution, a spokesperson from the minister’s offices provide the following statement.
“This is a complex matter involving multiple compensation claims and loans relating to the remediation of the building.
When it became apparent that the owners were unable to take out further loans required for remediation and given the ongoing commitment of the Government to paying accommodation support for the residents, an expert building report commissioned by the Government became the only viable option.
The mascot towers expert panel will consider the feasibility of remediation and other options for the site as required.”
The spokesperson indicated that more than $16 million in support had been provided to affected owners and residents.
This includes about $13 million which has been paid to provide temporary accommodation under the aforementioned rental assistance package along with around $3.7 million to 37 owner investors.
In his statement, the minister also criticised Labor’s plan to provide low interest loans to affected owners to finance remediation costs.This is despite the government itself having provided a similar loan scheme to help owners of apartment complexes which have combustible cladding to pay for cladding rectification.
“The announcement by NSW Labor that, if elected, they would provide a loan or act as a guarantor for a loan to remediate Mascot Towers without a genuine understanding of all the issues beggars belief.,” Dominello said.
“Many owners already owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgages.
“I don’t see how blindly adding another few hundred thousand in debt on top for each and every one of them would help any of the owners who are financially and psychologically struggling already.”
Owners Corporation Network Executive Officer Karen Stiles welcomed the announcement of the new panel, but said Mascot Tower owners had been let down by all levels of government for many years.
“As the peak body representing apartment owners, the Owners Corporation Network welcomes Minister Dominello’s announcement that an expert panel led by David Chandler OAM will assess the best way forward with Mascot Towers,” Stiles said.
“It’s not before time.
“These owners were let down by all levels of government. They should never have been put into the situation of having to carry out a complex building remediation without expert help.
“Having been let down by the system they were then coldly abandoned to their fate for almost four years. I can’t begin to imagine the incalculable distress this has caused.
“Government talks of its rental assistance largesse. There’s no mention of it only being for resident owners, leaving investors out in the cold. Or the fact that the rental assistance must be paid back.
“If the NSW government can assist owners in buildings with flammable cladding – who were also let down by regulatory failure – they can assist the owners of Mascot Towers.”
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