ACT News

Mr Fluffy heritage-listed 1926 home awaits the bulldozer

Canberra parents Karen and Andrew are mentally preparing to leave their Griffith heritage-listed home and the lush gardens in which their two young children have spent five years growing up.

As one of more than 1000 Mr Fluffy houses, the 1926 home with its beautiful original features and unique character is to be bulldozed at some point within the next five years. Around 20 Mr Fluffy homes are believed to be heritage listed.

‘NO ONE CAN SAVE IT NOW’: Fluffy homeowner Karen with her children Scarlett, 10 and Daniel, 12, and the family dog Gary ...
‘NO ONE CAN SAVE IT NOW’: Fluffy homeowner Karen with her children Scarlett, 10 and Daniel, 12, and the family dog Gary outside their heritage-listed home. Photo: Graham Tidy

The reality of the $1 billion concessional loan scheme announced by the Commonwealth and ACT on Tuesday has hit the family hard – and brought a new level of acute distress to those Mr Fluffy homeowners who were hoping an assistance package would allow them to rebuild on their original land.

Instead, the package will see Mr Fluffy owners bought out at market rates based on unimproved land value and given first option to buy back their cleaned blocks at market rates many homeowners fear will be inflated.

For Karen and Andrew, the terms of the buy-back mean they are unlikely to be able to afford to repurchase their block and rebuild a home.

"I have to get my head around it. I loved this home, and I will never be able to get it back. It is a heritage home, with established gardens. No one can save it now," said Karen.

The family feels that the intrusion of Mr Fluffy in their lives leaves not only a permanent question over the health of them and their children but will likely set them back a decade financially.

At this point the most important thing was to move their children out of a contaminated home.

What the family will miss most is the suburb they chose to raise their family in. The children are enrolled in local schools, with local friends and Karen and Andrew have strong links with neighbours, nearby friends and their local tennis club, in which they hold voluntary positions.

Moving on will not be easy.

Convener of the Fluffy Owners and Residents' Action Group Brianna Heseltine said the package was "akin to asking each victim who wants to rebuild on their land to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to a disaster that they have wound up in through no fault of their own.

"Around 57 per cent of FORAG's families want to rebuild on their land. It is unthinkable that these victims should be expected to shoulder the bulk of the scheme's costs", she said.

"The ACT Government needs to rethink its position on this and look at different ways to spread the costs. We implore the ACT Government to focus on rezoning land for sale on the open market from those who are happy to move on quickly, which is around 35 per cent of FORAG's households", she said.

There was also confusion about the state of the block homeowners would potentially buy back once it was remediated.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said on Tuesday that owners had to accept that the blocks would be "scraped.

"So the trees will go, the gardens will go, the pools will go, everything will go," Ms Gallagher said.

All heritage restrictions would be waived, with heritage homes to be documented before they were demolished.

But ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said "the extent of the removal of soil is usually determined on a case-by-case basis."

In the case of the Downer home which sparked the Mr Fluffy government response, Mr McCabe noted three lots of 10cm soil levels were removed before the land was declared clean.

"Home owners need to know that there is a likelihood of this occurring on many if not all loose-fill asbestos house blocks.  It is important that this program deliver blocks which are free from asbestos contamination," he said.