The ACT government does not have the resources to properly police building quality in the midst of Canberra's construction boom, a peak housing body says.
The Housing Industry Association has called for a "serious investment" in Access Canberra's building regulation branch, arguing a lack of staff has left it incapable of monitoring compliance across the city's growing number of construction sites.
But Access Canberra head Dave Peffer said expanding the branch's 14-member team wouldn't itself fix the problem, as he suggested prospective buyers held one of the keys to lifting building standards in the ACT.
Housing Industry Association ACT/Southern NSW regional executive director Greg Weller said the resourcing of the government's building regulator had not kept pace with the scale of construction work on new apartment and office developments in the nation's capital.
Construction began on almost 5000 units in the ACT in 2017-18, as the city powers through its biggest housing boom since records began.
In that time, Access Canberra's regulatory branch has expanded from 12 to 14 members. That team includes a new unit dedicated to responding quickly to building-related complaints, as well as site inspectors.
Mr Weller said rather than introducing new rules to regulate building quality, the government should put "more boots on the ground" to monitor compliance.
"By and large we have the right rules in place at the moment. The National Construction Code is a very good system, world-leading even, to govern how buildings are built," Mr Weller said.
"Rather than looking at more reviews and rules, it's enforcement actions that's needed. There's a budget coming up, and I think [investing in more staff] is something the government should seriously consider. There is a serious amount of money being generated by development in the ACT and I think more investment in this area would go a long way and be supported by the Canberra community."
In it's submission to the ACT Assembly's building quality inquiry, the association suggested the government invest in new resources to help contractors, including an advice line for codes and standards-related enquiries.
Mr Peffer said a decision to fund extra staff rested with ACT government ministers.
But Mr Peffer said he disagreed with the suggestion his building quality team did not have the resources or staff to properly fulfil its role.
He said the "vast majority" of Canberra builders complied with the rules, meaning his unit only a dealt with a small group of companies.
He said Access Canberra's new rapid response team was helping to quickly resolve complaints, pointing to a recent example of a builder who had been forced to partially demolish a newly-constructed building after it was found to be non-compliant with approved development plans.
The regulator has numerous measures to punish bad practice, but Mr Peffer argued its most "potent lever" for improving building quality was to increase buyer awareness about the track records of construction companies.
"Disappointingly, people do more research into buying a new Kelvinator fridge than into what builder they use for a $500,000 extension and there is a real problem with that," Mr Peffer said.
Mr Peffer said the agency produced a number of consumer guides last year, and had begun drawing greater attention to its online register of builders and contractors who had been subjected to disciplinary action. This included highlighting the disciplinary register during public forums, and telling prospective buyers who had sought their advice to use the resource.
The Canberra Times reported last year on Access Canberra's intention to shine a spotlight on the 78 companies listed on the register, triggering a flurry of interest in the previously little-known website.
The online register was viewed 1600 times in the month after the December 4 report, compared with zero in the corresponding period 12 months earlier, Mr Peffer said.
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