ACT News

Ainslie Fluffy owner devastated by inflated price for cleared land

A Fluffy owner is devastated by the amount she is being asked to buy back her cleared block, with the price virtually the same as the government paid her a year ago for her three-bedroom Ainslie home.

Christina Pilkington said she was paid $735,000 for her Chisholm Street home in October 2014 under the Fluffy buyback. Now the house has been demolished, the government has offered her the land back, still with a garage and asbestos-contaminated shed on site, for $725,000.

Chris and Christina Pilkington outside their cleared Ainslie Fluffy block, for which the government wants $725,000.
Chris and Christina Pilkington outside their cleared Ainslie Fluffy block, for which the government wants $725,000. Photo: Rohan Thomson

She was "shattered" by the offer and by changes to land rent expected to be finalised in the ACT parliament next week which force Fluffy owners to pay market price if they buy blocks under land rent.

She felt tricked by the land rent changes after being assured early last year the rules wouldn't change, she said.

34 Chisholm Street, Ainslie, the Pilkingtons' home before it was demolished under the Fluffy buyback.
34 Chisholm Street, Ainslie, the Pilkingtons' home before it was demolished under the Fluffy buyback. Photo: Supplied

Ms Pilkington has crunched the numbers, and knows the family should walk away from the home and suburb they love. They had stretched to buy the house for $711,000 in 2013, including borrowing the stamp duty from her mother. The prospect of paying $725,000 for an empty block and having to build a house leaves her desperately worried.

"But I just can't face not going home," she said. "It's shattering .. We've been moving towards going home. That's the only thing that's been getting us through."

Advertisement

The Land Development Agency made the offer after getting two valuations, which it won't release publicly or even to Ms Pilkington.

The government is trying to claw back some of the $1 billion cost of the scheme by maximising the value of blocks. While Fluffy owners have first right of refusal, they must pay government-determined market value – and for many the value will be inflated still more by a delay of four years or more between selling their houses and demolition.

Land rent is available to people earning a household income of up to $160,000 (a little more if they have children). It allows people to rent the land instead of buying it, paying 2 per cent of the unimproved value a year to the government. If they buy the land in the future, they pay unimproved land value. But for Fluffy owners, the scheme is being changed. Fluffy owners who rent their land will have to pay market value if and when they want to buy it.

Ms Pilkington said the changes meant huge uncertainty, with owners forced to pay whatever market value the government determined when they were ready to buy their land – which might be five, 10 or more years in the future.

It was "David versus Goliath", she said: "They can make up the rules as they go along and there is no oversight or appeals process."

She is also upset at the decision not to scrape away the top layer of soil, as promised when the scheme was announced. Instead, the taskforce removed soil from the footprint of the house, plus one metre, and checking other parts of the site through soil tests. Demolishers had also left behind a garage and a bonded-asbestos shed.

The worst part was knowing that she was one of "the lucky ones", having had the home demolished quickly, whereas others were renting for two or three years waiting for their homes to be demolished, with uncertainty over how much it would cost them to buy back the land.

A spokeswoman for the asbestos taskforce said only four owners had received offers to rebuy their land to date. As many as 540 owners had bought other houses.

She would not release the offers, saying only that valuations were "in line with Land Development Agency processes – which includes independent valuations".

Ms Pilkington said no house had sold within one kilometre since October 2014 for the amount they were paid.