Podcast: When what you see is not what you’ll get

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Elsewhere in this post

This week, we delve into the dark arts employed by real estate agents and property stylists to persuade you that an absolute lemon is, in fact, your dream “forever home.”

How come that beautiful tapestry is on the wall of this humble abode? Why are all the lights on and the windows closed?

Why are there three real estate agents from the same firm at a viewing of one relatively humble unit? We have some answers that will amaze and appal you.


LISTEN HERE


Also in the podcast, we try once again to shed a light on electrical vehicle charging and, more to the point, why so many people are dead set against it.

Jimmy posits an unprovable thesis that the same people who expect to be allowed to build an extension on their balcony on a nod and a wink, suddenly want by-laws, legally binding guarantees and acts of parliament before they’ll put a meter on an electrical socket.

This discussion – which is still going on – was prompted by Sue’s story about the doctor who was forced to sell his electric car and followed up by lively exchanges on the Forum.

The upshot? The laws are already in place to make this, theoretically, a slam-dunk for anyone who wants to charge their car.  But they are vague enough to give the climate denialists enough ammunition to stop it.

To be fair there are schemes where the wiring that’s been in place since Day One defies the best efforts of pro-EV residents to move this forward.

However the BS Brigade may have met its match in a webinar planned for next month – and the supporting literature already online – that presents the true facts of the matter.  

We catch up with trends in property prices (softening) and rents (soaring) and what’s happening with flammable cladding when Jimmy does something he almost never does – he agrees with the government.

That’s all in this week’s podcast.

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast (or reading the transcript), please share it with your friends using the social media buttons on this page.

TRANSCRIPT IN FULL

Jimmy  00:00

It’s Easter Monday. Everybody else is on holiday, but not the Flat Chat podcast.

Sue  00:05

No, we never holiday.

Jimmy  00:06

We never close, like the old Windmill Theatre in London. Today we’re going to talk about; I suppose you could call it controversy… There’s a bit of discussion on the Flat Chat website, about electric vehicle charging. It was all started by your story, by the way.

Sue  00:24

Oh, right.

Jimmy  00:26

We’re going to talk also, about the latest on cladding and you’ve got quite a lot of stuff about property prices, and rents.

Sue  00:37

Yep, all about the market.

Jimmy  00:38

All about the market. We’ll be talking about that. I thought this might be a short podcast, but I’ve got a feeling that it’s not going to be short. Anyway, I’m Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.

Sue  00:53

And I’m Sue Williams, I write about property for Domain.

Jimmy  00:57

And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.

[MUSIC]

Jimmy

It’s a bit quieter outside today. We don’t have the usual…Well, now that I’ve said that, we’ll probably get a procession of trucks and cars, driving up the road outside. Usually, we have to stop when things get a bit noisy outside and sometimes, we just keep going. It adds to the ambience, or not. Did I get into trouble this week, over electric vehicle charging? You wrote a story about the building that..

Sue  01:38

Refused to allow one of it’s residents to use the power point in the garage.

Jimmy  01:43

Yes, and then we had quite a long exchange with people on the Flat Chat forum and I completely misread the situation, because I thought it was the strata manager responsible (or his company had come back), which it turned out, was a completely different person; nothing to do with them. This is on the forum, if you want to catch up with this. It was interesting, because all these situations are different and some of them are unique. This person who wrote to us had, I think it was 36 garage openers, on one circuit. So, you’ve got an electrical circuit, and you’ve got 36 garages…

Sue  02:27

So he’s a building manager?

Jimmy  02:30

No, he was on the committee, but he’s trying to deal with bringing in electrical charging, when all the electrical system has been devoted… The only chance that it would ever become overloaded, is if everybody left the building, at exactly the same time. But it does create a problem.

Sue  02:49

They wouldn’t need to use them, would they, because the door will be open?

Jimmy  02:52

Well that’s true; they wouldn’t be charging. That’s something I hadn’t thought of. This is the kind of thing that people are having to deal with; what happens, under different circumstances. But you’re right, if somebody’s opening their garage door, they’re not charging their car at the same time, but somebody else might be charging their car. So, I had a bit of discussion about that and then I got alerted to this webinar, that’s happening next month on May the 12th. I think. The details will be on the show notes for this. The Owners Corporation Network, and the New South Wales government have been trying to devise a plan for setting up electric vehicle charging in apartment building. It’s really quite interesting; the literature, and we’ll put links on the website. The two approaches, one of which is just let individuals set up… They could do trickle charge, or they could have, even a three-phase charging, like one of these commercial charging points on their parking space and just let demand drive the infrastructure if you want, or future-proof the building, where you set up the infrastructure, so that if at any point, somebody wants one of these, everything’s set up, and the electricity supply has been checked, to see how much it can handle, etc. Now, it turns out that if you let the individuals set up as they go, then it makes it harder to set up for the whole building, later.

Sue  04:39

That makes sense.

Jimmy  04:40

It’s a cheaper option for the building in the short run, but more expensive in the long run and could even ultimately, I guess, end up with the individual charging stations being ripped out, to put in a more collective thing. The collective thing is a bigger upfront cost, and that is obviously a barrier, because a lot of people in the building will say ‘well, how many electric cars are going to be charged? You know, we’ve got 50 car spaces, and two people want electric; that doesn’t make any economic sense.’ It’s very difficult, I think, for a lot of apartment owners to think that far ahead. Like, in 10 years, it could be more than half the car parking spaces want electric charging,

Sue  05:33

But then it’s difficult, because people think ‘I might not be there in 10 years. I might be in another building and facing the same kind of issues. I might pay a special levy for this building to set up and then later on, I might go to another building, which is behind the eight ball.’

Jimmy  05:46

Yes, and it used to be that the average tenure of ownership of apartments was seven years, so if you’re looking ahead and going ‘in seven years time, will there be greater demand for electric vehicle charging?’ Yes, there certainly will, but how much will that be?

Sue  06:05

But then again, you’re maybe thinking, well, if this building gets future-proofed, it might cost a certain amount on a special levy, but then the value of my apartment might rise. Before, people were always looking when they were buying apartments; making sure there was good Wi Fi in the building and maybe, they were looking for a pool or a gym, or extra facilities or gardens. Now, one of the main things that lots of buyers are asking for is, is this building setup for electric vehicles? It becomes much more attractive for buyers, so the value will go up.

Jimmy  06:41

Yes, I mean, our building did a survey (something that all buildings should do, and certainly, ours should do more often), asking people, were you considering; seriously considering, buying an electric vehicle as your next car, or at some point in the future? I don’t know what the results of the survey were… Well, I kind of do know what the results of the survey were, because all the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging has appeared in the garage. This is long cable racks, attached to the ceiling, so that at any point, when somebody says ‘I want a charger on my car parking space,’ they can just run the cables up to that point and put the unit on the wall, which is good. It’s great, and I think that’s the preferred option. The Government’s department of…

Sue  07:36

Energy and Climate Change.

Jimmy  07:38

Yes. I didn’t even know we had that.

Sue  07:39

No, I didn’t either, but are they thinking about giving buildings grants, or any help, or is it just a webinar, where they’re giving advice?

Jimmy  07:47

Okay, I think the latter is the case. It’s a webinar where they’re giving advice. Now they’ve got a grants programme, for setting up electric vehicle charging stations across the state and you can get a grant of up to $50 million dollars, for setting up an electric vehicle charging station.

Sue  08:08

Like, if you were maybe a garage, or something?

Jimmy  08:12

And especially in country towns. In the city, it makes commercial sense for a lot of traditional garages to also have electric vehicle charging. In the country, maybe not so much. So, it would give them the incentive of  50% of the cost, up to $50 million dollars, which is what they will provide, for people setting up electric vehicle charging stations, which is good, but I didn’t see any mention of any assistance for apartment buildings. The other part of this (and this will all be discussed on this webinar, on May the 12th)…The question then is if you do decide to go for electric vehicle charging in your building, do you get an EV charging specialist company to come in and do it, or do you get your tried and trusted electricians, who have already done work in your building, to come and do it? The benefit of the first option is that you get a comprehensive service and you get people who are experts in that field, but you might end up having to sign up a maintenance contract.

Sue  09:24

Okay, like an embedded network, almost.

Jimmy  09:27

Well, in every sense, that’s exactly what it would be; an embedded network, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’re getting a lower cost installation, and it’s proven technology.

Sue  09:41

I guess you just have to take note of the maintenance costs and how much the contract is going to cost you longterm.

Jimmy  09:46

And how realistic they are. The other one is the tried and tested electrical contractors coming in; the ones that are people you know, the people that you trust.

Sue  09:56

Who do other jobs around the building as well.

Jimmy  09:58

But are they experts in electric vehicle charging? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. There’s a lot of different questions on this. I went out on a limb, on various bits of social media and on the website…

Sue  10:12

So  unlike you, Jimmy!

Jimmy  10:13

And basically said ‘don’t let perfect, be the enemy of good.’ Okay, if you’re saying we’d rather have a future-proof of the building and have a system for the whole building in place (and that’s probably preferable to individuals, setting up their own charging stations, and even using existing electricity)… But, if that’s what stops anybody having EV charging, as was in your story, where this guy just wanted to be able to plug his charger in to the electrical system and the owners corporation strata manager said ‘no, you can’t do that,’ and even sealed up the electrical socket near his car…If that’s being prevented because you can’t get approval for a comprehensive installation, then that’s just wrong. I think my preference is to let individuals set up their own charging system, until it’s proven that there is a demand. Then at that point, you go ‘okay, let’s go back to square one and put in a comprehensive system.’ One of the barriers that was put up in the case that you wrote about, was they had no structure for charging the individual for electricity. Apparently, that’s one of the issues that’s going to be raised in the webinar. The government is looking at regulation, to make it clearer and easier for owners corporations to do this. These are things that have to be clarified and fixed, but something that occurs to me (and I find it quite frustrating); there are so many apartment blocks, strata committees and owners corporations, who are not compliant with strata law; who are doing stuff on a nod and a wink. I would say that the strata committees who do stuff on a nod and a wink in the Venn diagram, also has strata committees who refuse to put electric vehicle charging in their buildings… I think there’d be a big overlap.

Sue  12:28

Quite possibly.

Jimmy  12:29

I think people who are thinking ‘oh, never mind about the regulations, never mind about the laws,’ are also the people who are saying ‘oh, we’ve got to have a properly constituted bylaw, before we can move forward.’ It’s that kind of argument that’s holding up a lot of progress in this. It’s that thing of, allowing perfect to be the enemy of good. Do what you can get away with, and fix it later. I mean, that’s how Uber and Airbnb got started; they just ignored the law.

Sue  13:01

And just went ahead.

Jimmy  13:03

Until the popularity of the service they were providing meant the government had to change. It’s ‘improvise, until they legalise.’ That’s my new phrase. When we come back, we’re going to be talking about what’s happening in the property market.

[MUSIC]

Jimmy

Sue, we’ve got a lot happening in the property market at the moment…What have you discovered?

Sue  13:36

Well, there’s two big things happening. Prices are softening and the market is cooling off, in terms of buying apartments, and rents are really hardening. They’re really going up quite sharply. A new Domain report came out last week, showing the rents in Australia had the strongest growth in the last 13 years, which is quite incredible, really. Record highs, all across the country. It didn’t affect Sydney and Melbourne quite so much, but you know, it’s quite diverse, all across Australia. I mean, in Darwin, unit rents went up by 16.3% over the last year, which is incredible, really.

Jimmy  14:18

Is there a reason for this?

Sue  14:20

Well, the price of property went up, so investors were tending to pay more for their property, so they wanted to hike rents a bit higher. Vacancy rates are very, very low, so that made demand for available properties much higher and I think COVID had a huge effect as well, obviously.

Jimmy  14:37

Is this part of the COVID fleeing from cities?

Sue  14:41

Well, that’s true. I mean, certainly regional rents went up hugely. I think in the old days, if people couldn’t afford to rent in Sydney, they’d go to a regional centre and the rent would be maybe 1/5th of what it was in Sydney. Well, that’s no longer the case, because regional rents have gone up quite dramatically as well, because so many people were going for tree changes or sea changes, and were looking for properties to buy. Because they were going for properties to buy in regional areas, or coastal areas, they weren’t renting them out at all. They were kind of going there and staying there during lockdowns, and then coming back and thinking ‘well, we can’t go overseas…Overseas travel is going to be a bit difficult for the next couple of years, so therefore, we’ll keep these places for ourselves.’ Effectively, a lot of properties came out of the rental market.

Jimmy  15:27

Do you think they’ll end up on Airbnb, now that overseas travel is a lot easier?

Sue  15:33

Yes, there has been a definite drift back to Airbnb, but also, because Airbnb has such as strength in some markets, that’s decreasing the amount of properties available to rent for long-term renters, as well. Rents have gone up as a result of the strength of Airbnb, and other short-term letting platforms in those markets, too.

Jimmy  15:55

You say that the rents haven’t gone up that much in Sydney and Melbourne. They’ve gone up, but not by huge amounts. Where else have there been significant rises?

Sue  16:05

Well, it’s been all those secondary markets, really. We’ve had Darwin and then Adelaide was up 8.6% (this is for apartments), over the last year, as well. The rent is still quite low, for those people thinking ‘oh, how am I ever going to afford a rent?’ A weekly rent there; the median is $380 a week.

Jimmy  16:25

Wow.

Sue  16:26

Yes, so it’s quite a change from say, Sydney, which is $550. Melbourne is only a little bit more, at $390. Sydney went up 6.4% last year and Melbourne went up 4%. Those were the two capitals, which were probably hit hardest by COVID, so rents have gone up by the least, because they were hit by the lockdowns. Areas like Hobart (where prices of property have gone up hugely); rents only went up 7.1%, over the last year. I mean, I say ‘only,’ but, Brisbane is 7.5% and Canberra… It’s been a really strong market, because people didn’t lose their jobs in Canberra over lockdowns and over COVID, because there’s so much government employment there. That went up by 8% and Perth; we saw WA wasn’t really affected so much by COVID, because they just shut the borders… Rents there went up by 8.1%. Huge divisions between different areas of the country, as well.

Jimmy  17:24

We know that WA gets affected by the boom and bust of minerals and mining and stuff like that, but it strikes me that wherever you are, rents are going up by more than inflation and by more than wages

Sue  17:40

Oh, absolutely; hugely.  I think it is disguising a bit of a hidden epidemic of homelessness in some of these areas as well, because people just can’t afford these rents. A lot of people have been trying to save up (maybe first homebuyers), to try and buy something,  but if you’re paying $550 median rent a week, how are you expected to save up money for a deposit? It makes it really, really difficult. A lot of people have started couchsurfing, moving in with relatives, sharing houses again, with friends; all those kinds of things, where they’ve had apartments in the past by themselves, or with their partner, and they just can’t afford it anymore.

Jimmy  18:19

Yes, I think house sharing is going to come back in a big way. Somebody that we knew, who’s not a captain of industry by any manner of means; I think they’re actually a personal trainer, or a gym trainer. They were living in a fabulous house in Point Piper, and you go, how can you possibly afford to live in that, because it was a six bedroom apartment. There were six other couples, or five other couples, so it was a big shared house. When you divided the rent by five or six, suddenly it became affordable, and as long as they behaved; as long as they didn’t make a nuisance of themselves, within that apartment block, they were going to get on fine. That’s an extreme case, but I think there are cases… We hear about all these McMansions out in the suburbs. You know, four or five bedroom houses. Well, you put two or three couples in there, and suddenly they become affordable. Maybe that’s the next stepping stone; we’ll all be living like the characters in Friends again.

Sue  19:27

I think we probably all have memories of shared houses, when we were students.

Jimmy  19:31

Very few of them were good memories.

Sue  19:33

Well, that’s right, and you always remember putting notes on your butter, saying ‘this is my butter, hands off;’ all that kind of thing. A friend of mine has just given up his apartment in Sydney and he’s going to live in a shared community, but this is a shared Buddhist community. He’s a yoga instructor, and a massage therapist and he’s been a Buddhist for a long time. He says ‘I don’t know how it’s going to work,’ but it’s a community. I think they’re sharing a big place; there’s five of them. They each have their own living areas, which is really great, and they have rules. They don’t have their own food. They can’t put notes on the butter, and things. They share everything and they often eat together and they take turns in cooking. Maybe, that’s a nice way to live in the future. Look, I can’t cook, so maybe, I’d pay the person who was the best cook in the house to do my turn, if I lived like that.

Sue  19:36

I guess it depends what kind of Buddhists they are, because some Buddhists are vegetarian, and some aren’t. Some are semi-veg. Some only eat meat on certain days. Some only eat certain kinds of meat. So even underneath the whole Buddhist umbrella, they go from full vegetarian (maybe possibly even vegan), right through to fish on Friday.

Sue  21:00

Okay. Well, my friend is a fabulous cook. He actually runs cooking lessons, as well. Vegan cooking.

Jimmy  21:06

I can see he’s going to become very popular.

Sue  21:08

Absolutely. He had to apply to join this group and they had to agree to him. I think they all had auditions and stuff, to come in, but they were very keen on him, presumably because of the cooking thing.

Jimmy  21:21

That’s a throwback as well, isn’t it? I don’t know if you remember the film Shallow Grave?

Sue  21:25

Oh, gosh, yes!

Jimmy  21:27

 Where they’re interviewing the next roommate that they’re going to have.

Sue  21:30

That’s right, yes. It was a great film, wasn’t it? But I mean, it’s difficult for families. It’s fine for a single man, who wants to try a different way of living for a while. But yeah, I guess people are becoming much more innovative with their living arrangements.

Jimmy  21:52

Some people have enough trouble living in a building that has other people in it, in their own flats, let alone living in a flat that has other people living in separate rooms. But you know, society’s constantly evolving to deal with the issues and as you say, people can be innovative, when it  comes to tackling their problems.

Sue  22:16

Like little communes.  Sharing the cats; cat sharing.

Sue  22:16

We’ve had Airbnb, for holiday accommodation. We’ve had Uber, as you said, for sharing cars and things. Who’s not to say there’s going to be some fantastic new app; a new business that comes up, about home sharing, and working out how people can be really compatible with each other and kind of move in…

Sue  22:50

Property is getting more expensive. We’re seeing the market is definitely cooling, but that only means the rate of price growth is slowing a bit. Prices are still going up, so it’s still making it really hard for a lot of people in the market. I did a piece for the Domain magazine this week, about how some real estate agents… You know, in the past two years, people have been gripped by FOMO, so they’ve been really determined to buy anything…

Jimmy  23:17

Fear of missing out.

Sue  23:19

And they know that even if they buy a lemon, it’s still going to be worth a lot of money, because prices are going up hugely. But now prices are softening, they have to be much more careful about what they buy, because they don’t want to get stuck with a property which isn’t very good, or which has the wrong aspect.

Jimmy  23:34

Or, basically, they can’t sell for a bit more money than they paid to buy it.

Sue  23:39

That’s right. So real estate agents are having to work harder and there’s been reports of a lot more real estate agents styling places really professionally and really carefully, to make sure they look at their best.  I mean, even though we are really experienced about apartments, I walk into an apartment that’s been really well styled and I think ‘wow, this is fantastic! I wouldn’t mind buying this.’ Whereas, people much better than us, like buying agents, say ‘well, you really have to look beyond the styling.’  I talked to a buying agent called Dan Sofo, and he was saying that when he goes into places, he’s always careful to lift up the rugs, which I would never have thought of doing, to look at the floorboards or whatever’s underneath, and see how its faring.At the moment, because there has been floods; I mean, more houses have been affected, obviously, than apartments, but some apartments have been affected too. He said he often lifts up rugs and he finds that the floorboards are really badly water damaged, or are mouldy, or have lots of damp. He said he went into one place where there was a tapestry on the wall and he thought ‘oh, that’s quite interesting,’ so he immediately lifted the tapestry away, and he could find damp marks on the walls. You have to be really careful when something’s been presented well, and he said also look out for things like the smell of fresh paint, because that often means that there might be a problem with an apartment; maybe damp or something and people will put down one coat of paint, just to kind of cover those things. He said, often by the end of the month, when the sales campaign is finishing, you can see the paint beginning to blister. You can go and look at an apartment and think ‘oh, this is beautifully light; it’s fantastic,’ and then when you buy it, and you go in, and it’s empty, you suddenly realise that there were mirrors all on one wall, that have all been taken down. All the lights were on; there weren’t lamps… You know, that was the reason that they were all so light, when really, they actually can be quite a dark place.

Sue  24:48

It just reminds one, that when you’re viewing somewhere that you want to buy or rent, go for the daytime viewing, but go for the evening viewing, as well, because it’s a totally different ambience and environment.

Sue  26:06

And Dan was saying that he went into a viewing once, and there were no fewer than three real estate agents there and he thought ‘this is weird.’ You know, you might get three real estate agents in a $4 million apartment, but you wouldn’t have them in the one that’s less than a million dollars. One of the real estate agents was kind of standing guard on the front door and he realised when he left, why there was an extra agent there. As people came in, they were closing the door really, really quickly, because when you go out, the noise; the roar of traffic outside, was deafening. So they were making sure the door was closed…

Jimmy  26:43

And nobody would hear that while they’re…

Sue  26:45

Absolutely. When he went back in there on the next inspection, he noticed that all the windows were closed, as well. There were perfume diffusers around and the plugin things and the sticks that you put into perfume; those kinds of things, to make a place smell fresh, even though it probably wasn’t.

Jimmy  27:08

I wonder what music they play these days?

Sue  27:11

They often don’t play music now, because home buyers are much more savvy than they used to be, so if you listen to music, you think ‘oh, this place is really staged.’ Well, if you don’t have any music on, you’re not actually so aware, that people are trying to manipulate your emotions. In the same way, do you remember ten years ago, that they sometimes used to bake bread and make coffee? They don’t do that anymore, because people are much wiser to those kinds of triggers.

Jimmy  27:40

They can tell there’s tricks afoot.

Sue  27:42

That’s right, whereas tricks now, are much more subtle.

Jimmy  27:45

So look behind the tapestry, folks.

Sue  27:47

Yes, I mean, it would never occur to me to pick up a rug; to just lift the corner of the rug and also, open cupboards and look at the back of the cupboard, as well, for marks like tea stains, which would be indicative of having a damp problem.

[MUSIC]

Jimmy  28:19

Very quickly, flammable cladding; what’s happening?

Sue  28:23

You probably remember after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, where so many people were killed and then the LaCrosse fire in Melbourne…

Jimmy  28:30

Where nobody was killed.

Sue  28:31

No, that’s right, but they could have been. The New South Wales government, as did governments all around the country, looked at flammable cladding on apartment buildings and in New South Wales, they found 1200 apartment blocks, guest houses, or public buildings that had flammable cladding. Just recently, the state government task force looking at these issues, have just deemed more than 500 buildings a low priority, despite their facades potentially posing ‘unacceptable fire risks.’

Jimmy  29:01

And who defines what ‘unacceptable fire risk’ is, Sue?

Sue  29:04

Well, I guess the New South Wales Auditor-General, and that department.

Jimmy  29:06

Is any fire risk unacceptable? I’m going to go out on a limb here (again), and say I don’t think the government is behaving badly in this regard at all, because I think if you are in a building that has an ‘unacceptable fire risk,’ the first thing to do is stop people having barbecues on their balconies and stop people smoking on their balconies. Just say that, ‘right, that’s the law.’ if you are deemed to be a high-risk building with flammable cladding, until the cladding has been removed and replaced, reduce the fire risk by taking fire off the balconies.

Sue  29:48

Okay, well, that’s a good idea in theory, but how do you police that? How do you make sure that nobody smokes on a balcony? That’s really hard to do.

Jimmy  29:56

Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

Sue  29:58

What are you saying; put in CCTV?

Jimmy  30:00

Well, it could be CCTV. I mean, there’s so many cheap cameras around. All you need to do is put a camera at ground level that’s not filming inside the apartments, but filming up the facade and just say ‘well, look, there’s somebody there; you can see the cigarette glowing, or there’s the barbecue smoke, coming off.’

Sue  30:19

But don’t people deserve to live in safe buildings, where they could have a cigarette on the balcony? I mean, I don’t know how many people are still smokers; maybe 5% of people would be smokers, these days.

Jimmy  30:32

More than that.

Sue  30:33

Well, a lot of people don’t like smoking inside their apartments, so they go out to the balcony to smoke.

Jimmy  30:40

And put smoke into other people’s apartments.

Sue  30:42

Well yeah, possibly, but people deserve to live in safe buildings. You can’t say ‘well, there are some behaviours which are unacceptable,’ because your building is a bit risky. You need a safe building.

Jimmy  30:54

Well, what makes a building unsafe? The flammable cladding is only unsafe if it catches fire.

Sue  31:01

As we’ve seen, there might be only a one-in-a-thousand chance of it catching fire, but when it does…

Jimmy  31:07

Less than that; one-in-a-million.

Sue  31:09

Okay, but when it does, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Jimmy  31:15

The Grenfell Tower fire was a horrible, awful thing, but it was a perfect storm of bad decision making, bad planning and bad infrastructure in the building. We have had two apartment block fires in Australia, where flammable cladding was a factor. That was the Neo 200 and the LaCrosse. In both cases, fire swept up outside of the building and in neither case was anyone injured. These apartments were designed to contain or suppress fire, so if the fire started to come in to the building, the sprinklers would go off. In neither case did this happen. You could say ‘these buildings were unsafe,’ because they had fire shooting up the outside of the building… I would say that it actually proved they were safe. I know that’s an incredibly unpopular view and people might think I’m being stupid and naive, but I mean, where’s the proof? Where’s the proof that every building that has flammable cladding on it, needs to have that removed and replaced, as a matter of urgency? Obviously, it would be good not to have it there, because the less of it that there is, the more you decrease the chance of a fatal fire, but in the meantime, if you think your building might be unsafe, then get the fire off the balconies

Sue  32:43

Yes, but it’s not only fires on balconies, it’s also, what if somebody lights a fire? What if a vandal lights the fire outside, and it catches on the outside of a building and then starts going up?

Jimmy  32:55

Well, that has not happened in Australia.

Sue  32:57

It hasn’t, yet. Let’s hope it never happens, but it could happen.

Jimmy  33:02

In both the cases, with LaCrosse and the Neo 200, the fire was started by discarded cigarette ends. That’s 100% causality.

Sue  33:12

But you can’t guarantee that everybody will stop smoking on their balconies, even if you make it against the law.

Jimmy  33:18

Could have snipers.

Sue  33:21

Stupid boy! I think human behaviour is often irrational and people will have a cigarette on a balcony, even if you tell them that you shouldn’t. You’ve got to make these buildings safe.

Jimmy  33:37

At the moment, the government has decided that 500 of the identified buildings are not critically unsafe; is that basically what we’re saying?

Sue  33:47

That’s right.

Jimmy  33:48

So they will not be benefiting from the no-interest loans, for replacing the flammable cladding; is that what you’re saying?

Sue  33:57

I guess so, because they’re saying it costs about $4 million a building, to replace cladding on a high…

Jimmy  34:04

 On a very high, high-rise.

Sue  34:06

Yes, on a high-risk building.

Jimmy  34:09

Well, I think high-risk buildings; yeah, replace the cladding and I think the government should be doing more to help those buildings, but I don’t think we should be looking at every building that’s got a bit of cladding on it, as being high-risk.

Sue  34:22

No, but they’re not saying every building with a bit of cladding, I don’t think.

Jimmy  34:27

They’re saying the opposite… What they’re saying is, these are the buildings that are not that much at risk. Alright?

Sue  34:34

Okay.

Jimmy  34:34

We will agree to disagree, again! Okay. Well, let’s get on with this. There’s chocolate Easter eggs still to be eaten.

Sue  34:49

As one of my friends at the gym said, ‘it’s carb time.’

Jimmy  34:58

Thank you, Sue for your eggseptional contribution today.

Sue  35:02

Is that an Easter joke; eggspectional?

Jimmy  35:04

It is now. And thank you all for listening. We’ll talk to you again soon. Bye.

[MUSIC]

Jimmy

Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website flatchat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favourite pod-catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.

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