The Asbestos Taskforce has released photographs of some of the worst contamination found to date of a Fluffy home, as it prepares the first 10 cleared blocks for sale.
Taskforce head Andrew Kefford would not provide the address of the home where the wall cavities were found contaminated by the loose-fill asbestos, beyond saying it was in Weston Creek.
Nor would the former owners be told, he said, with the taskforce unable to quantify the amount of Fluffy insulation for each home. Mr Kefford said the key issue for homeowners was the level of contamination in living areas – and the significant finds in the walls did not necessarily translate to contamination of living areas.
"What we found inside the walls was a very significant amount of asbestos insulation," he said. "We're releasing this really so that people get a sense of what's happening inside the houses ... and to demonstrate the extent to which, notwithstanding the removal of the visible and accessible asbestos in the original program, that product has migrated through the structures."
Homes insulated in the 1970s by "Mr Fluffy" Dirk Jansen with loose asbestos were cleaned in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the material was removed from ceilings. The government has decided to demolish them all after discovering the extent of asbestos contamination of wall cavities and subfloors in a Downer house in 2014.
The photos were released as the government updated its demolition schedule, with 213 houses scheduled to come down this year. To date, demolition has focused on Weston Creek, especially Rivett and Chapman, where authorities wanted to move quickly to remove homes at risk of bushfire attack. Eighty-four houses have been demolished, half of them in Weston Creek.
Now the new unit title rules have been passed by the ACT parliament, the government will begin selling cleared blocks, with 10 to be auctioned about April 12.
Mr Kefford said five blocks had been sold back to owners already – blocks that were either heritage listed or too small to be affected by the unit title rules.
The unit title changes allow owners of Fluffy blocks of 700 square metres or more to divide the blocks into two titles for two homes – a strategy deigned to maximise their value and claw back some of the cost of the scheme.
Homes are being offered to former owners first, at a value determined by the Land Development Agency, with 657 owners wanting the first right of refusal. After that, they are offered to Housing ACT at the same price, then they go to auction. Owners of the first 10 did not want first right of refusal to buy.
Mr Kefford said homes were being bundled for demolition contractors – with a Kambah group of 35 homes offered as one package, to help bring down the cost of demolition. He would not reveal demolition costs.
Also to keep costs down, the government was not demolishing garages, cubby houses, gardens or driveways and was not restoring blocks to level ground before selling them. Soil testing for asbestos contamination was limited to the footprint of the house and the demolition site.
When the scheme was announced in 2014, the government said it would "scrape" the blocks clean, with then chief minister Katy Gallagher saying, "The block is essentially scraped, so the trees will go, the garden will go, the pool will go, everything will go."
But Mr Kefford said this week the blocks were more attractive with established gardens and there was no reason to think the gardens would be contaminated if soil around the house itself had been tested and was clean.
The government is also buying nine neighbouring houses, attached to Fluffy homes, where the Fluffy house could not be demolished without affecting the integrity of the neighbour.
In all, 1022 houses are affected, housing 4000 people. One thousand owners had agreed to the buyback. To date, 971 had accepted offers and 828 homes were in government hands, with owners paying prices ranging from $360,000 to $3 million.
Most of the Fluffy homes in Chapman and Rivett in Weston Creek have been demolished, with just five of the 24 Chapman homes and nine of the 27 Rivett homes remaining.
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