Plaster home stigma may cost NZers more than actual leaky home issues

It is all agreed that the construction of leaky buildings is a stain on the side of New Zealand’s built history. There are many many cases of badly damaged houses where owners have inherited major problems that need urgent and extensive repairs. These owners may or may not have had the ability to receive some compensation but almost always end up out of pocket to some extent. The construction industry has undergone major change in the last few years to redress these major problems.

However even more worrying, is that the message of “recladding is the only way” of fixing problem houses is wiping BILLIONS off the value of the remaining built infrastructure of our country through “leaky building stigma” – and this dwarfs the issue of the Christchurch rebuild. Unless this path and message is recorrected, then ordinary NZers will continue to lose their built wealth, retirement fund and nest eggs. Cumulatively this will mean NZ will be over $15 billion dollars out of pocket.

Put in perspective, this cost dwarfs the income generated by the planned SOE sell-down (estimated $5 – $7 billion – www.interest.co.nz ). Why would a country sell off its public assets for $5 – $7 billion at the same time as letting the remaining private residential assets be devalued by over $15 billion? It doesn’t make sense.

While there are many technical issues surrounding this debate, the reality is simple: not all plaster clad buildings have major issues requiring reclads. There has been a dramatic over-estimation of the number of buildings with this scale and szie of problem which is fanning the flames of fear and condemning perfectly good homes. It has been proven factually time and time again that most buildings do not have major problems and can be easily looked after with relatively little cost or expense. Also, there are reliable ways to discern problem houses from good ones with certainty and without damage (www.mduprobe.com) – giving home purchasers certainty that they can buy in confidence.

However this is not the message the constituency is getting fed, and with devastating effects. Along with the Christchurch earthquake rebuild, the biggest economic issue facing the country is not in how problem buildings are being expensively remediated – it is the “reclad them all” rhetoric that is condemning and DEVALUING ALL of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of plaster-clad NZ homes that in fact do not need extensive remediation. The mums and dads investors of these houses are now victimised and faced with the impossible situation of having $200,000+ wiped off the value of their sound buildings – yet there is no major physical damage or problems.

Many of you or someone you know will own a plaster-clad home in what is defined as the “at risk” time period – from 1992 to 2004. “Official estimates” are arguing that 90% of these plaster-clad buildings need to be completely reclad – irrespective of how well they’re performing. But a much lower percentage actually have this level of problems – and the rest are being unfarily tarnished with the same brush.

This issue touches many many people across New Zealand and goes straight to the back-pocket. This is not specifically a “building” problem, and its not specifically a “housing” problem, what this issue revolves around is more of a “property” and “investment” problem – and the erasing of hard-earned value in our built infrastructure that NZers are being duped into devaluing and rebuilding. These homes are also typically the major asset in a family so their wealth evaporates. This must stop.

While this is contrary to the “official position”, this argument has the backing of a huge number of professionals in the building industry right across the board that can speak from personal experience and expertise of being involved with all aspects including investigation, maintenance, targeted repairs, partial-reclads and full-reclads. The facts also speak for themselves with the results of many thousands of detailed and ongoing structural and weathertightness examination results of thousands of plaster homes (of both problem houses as well as not – and the many in-between) proving that the official estimates are wildly overblown.

The rights of the hundreds of thousands of property owners and the protection the generated wealth of the nation from is at stake. This has been and will remain an issue of national significance for many years for plaster home owners. Over $15 billion will be wiped from New Zealand’s bottom line and remove any benefit state asset sales will have to New Zealand’s financial position. This is an issue that the government needs be taking very seriously as it starts to sell down its prime assets to make ends meet – unless the leaky home stigma problem is not addressed quickly more and more NZers will continue to lose their life savings for no good reason.

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