Change.org campaign targets forced sales of strata blocks
By JIMMY THOMSON
12 August 2015
Opponents of the planned forced sales of apartments under proposed
strata law changes in NSW have launched an online petition in an effort
to block the moves.
The proposal would change the current requirement of 100 per cent of
owners to agree to sell a unit block to developers to only 75 per cent,
who could then force the other owners to sell.
"If this reform is passed, it will lead to compulsory evictions of a
huge number of home owners in New South Wales," says Save Our Strata
Homes, the organisation behind the Change.org petition directed at the
Minister responsible for Fair Trading, Victor Dominello, and Labor
leader Luke Foley.
"This would wreak havoc on people's lives and tear apart communities,
with the devastation particularly hitting less wealthy members of the
community who cannot afford to buy freestanding houses."
The petition, titled "Say no to widespread forced sale and evictions of
strata apartment owners in NSW", was launched three days ago.
Official submissions to the review of strata laws in NSW close on
Wednesday, with Fair Trading revealing that the issues of forced sales
and a proposed 2 per cent developer defects bond attracted the most
attention in the more than 200 responses received so far.
However, it's the forced sale issue that has generated the greatest
heat, especially after the University of NSW's Built Environment
faculty recently identified 8000 separate Sydney apartment blocks,
comprising more than 50,000 units, that were ripe for redevelopment,
mainly in the eastern suburbs and lower north shore.
"If this proposed legislation is passed, I will lose my home," The
Change.org website says. "I don't believe the compensation I receive
will allow me to buy back into the out-of-control housing market, and I
don't have funds to pay stamp duty on a new purchase.
"I am devastated by the idea of being forced back into the runaway
market or being thrown out into rental accommodation. I and thousands
of strata unit owners stand to lose everything we have worked for
solely to line the pockets of developers."
The petition's initial supporters are similarly alarmed.
"It's outrageous that people can be robbed of their own home and thrown out in the street. Shame!" Rosalba Paris writes.
"One of the buildings concerned was built by my grandfather and has significant interest to our large family," Alison Raco says.
"This is designed to aid developers, not home owners, who will be made vulnerable by this law," Barbara Masel says.
Save our strata homes
"This is going to hit older owners who have lived in an apartment for
most of their lives and won't necessarily have the funds to cover
moving costs," writes Michelle Mizzi. "It will also affect the ability
of first homebuyers to buy into the market."
Sue Morgan, writes from London: "As a strata owner in NSW I am outraged
that this legislation will force people out of their homes and only for
the benefit of developers - no-one else."
Opponents are outraged at the prospect of people who thought they had
security of tenure on their homes being pushed out by opportunistic
investors and developers.
The other side of the coin is that apartment owners are legally obliged
to maintain buildings that are well past their use-by dates, while
allegedly being blocked from selling the whole block by hold-outs
hoping to get an inflated price for their units.
The proposed threshold of 75 per cent is at the lower end of what many
strata professionals thought would be set. In Western Australia, for
instance, it is proposed that the majority required to agree to
redevelopment will be on a sliding scale from 95 per cent for a scheme
15 to 20 years old, to 90 per cent for schemes between 20 and 30 years
old, and 80 per cent for schemes older than that.
The Change.org material claims the move will make it even harder for
first-time home owners, who often depend on older strata units to get a
toehold in the property market.
The government says nine meetings with 21 separate stakeholder groups
have been held to allow them to raise and discuss their major issues in
relation to the reforms. This is in addition to the comprehensive
submissions and review process that was undertaken when the reforms
were proposed two years ago.
"The comments by both stakeholders and the public have been extremely
welcome in addressing the many issues in both bills, and we appreciate
the time taken by many of those who made submissions," a spokeswoman
says. "All the comments made will be taken into account in
finalising the drafting of the bills."
Submissions can still be made on Wednesday. Details at this Fair
Trading web page. The Change.org petition has been running for three
days, but has so far attracted only a few signatures.