The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed the release of the report from the Inquiry into Building Quality in the ACT by the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, as well as work to improve certification, but has warned of consequences for low-income and vulnerable households unless a focus on improving building quality is sustained and widened.
According to ACTCOSS Policy Manager Craig Wallace: "ACTCOSS has supported additional densification provided it opens up more housing choice and affordable housing in Canberra, but with important caveats including the need for attention to building quality and safety. The ACT Housing Choices process told us that 60% of people surveyed were reluctant to consider moving into higher density housing due to concerns about building quality and safety.
"Work is needed to ensure ACT building regulation, quality control and oversight is consistent and high. New densified housing developments must be sustainable and meet consistent standards for structural safety, environmental sustainability, fire safety, emergency evacuation, disability access, and climate and sound proofing – including in affordable dwellings.
"The stress, burden and cost of managing building quality issues often falls hardest with low-income people who need tenancy support to achieve rectification work. Rising problems – from poor insulation to leaky ceilings – also point to the need for supportive individual and systemic advocacy for ACT tenants.
"In our Housing Choices submission to the ACT Government, we stressed that attention must be paid to lessons learnt from other jurisdictions about access and egress by people with disability and older tenants from medium to high density residential buildings in a fire or emergency.
"We note concerns about the independence of building certifiers, enforcement and appropriate standards, which have been raised in different ways by both property owners’ groups and builders’ groups for some time. We support moves to return Government certifiers to large scale residential developments, announced this week by the Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay MLA.
"However, ACTCOSS is disappointed universal design to meet needs of people with disabilities and older people continues to be overlooked in building quality inquiries and reforms. We need measures, including work promised in the ACT Parliamentary Agreement, to improve the availability of appropriately designed housing to enable people to live safely in the community, remain connected and stay out of residential care where possible," Mr Wallace concluded.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
Media Contact: Craig Wallace, Policy Manager, ACTCOSS, on 0477 200 755.