The legacy of loose-fill asbestos stretches far wider than the 1000 households living in Mr Fluffy homes right now, with sales data revealing the devastating extent of Mr Fluffy's reach.
The 1000 homes have sold at least 1600 times since 1992 as the clean-up program was drawing to a close. The sales data shows some homes have changed hands five or six times in the period.
The numbers don't take account of sales in the 20 years before the clean-up when families were living with the asbestos still in their ceilings, and don't take account of the numerous tenants who have also occupied the houses over more than 40 years.
The legacy of exposure to the dangerous loose-fill asbestos clearly stretches to many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Canberrans.
Two Mr Fluffy homes have changed hands seven times each since 1992, according to data at allhomes.com.au. Seven homes changed hands six times. Eighteen homes have sold five times each over the period. And 52 homes have changed hands four times apiece.
In all, nearly a quarter of the Fluffy cohort, about 220 houses, have changed hands three or more times over the 22 years. Across the city, houses are held for an average 10 years each, so these houses have sold at a rate well above average.
Equally, about a third of the Mr Fluffy home show no record of having been sold since 1992, according to sales data analysed from allhomes.com.au (which is being bought by Fairfax). These owners presumably lived through the clean-up, and some at least were also in their homes when the asbetsos insulation was installed in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The sales data, analysed by The Canberra Times, shows a number of Mr Fluffy homes were sold after the clean-up. This could be a sign that some owners were reluctant to return to homes in which they no longer felt safe, but the conclusion is not a well-held one, given house sales across the city also peaked at this time.
The failed Commonwealth clean-up of Mr Fluffy homes ran from 1989 until 1993, with 1049 homes identified with the insulation in their roofs. The material was removed and the roof spaces sealed with PVA adhesive. Residents were told in July 1993 that, with the program drawing to a close, a certificate of removal would be placed on their building control file and they should speak with building control before doing any alterations to walls or ceilings.
The letter doesn't raise specific safety concerns, and government documents say its content was "negotiated with an advisory committee of householders, some of whom were concerned about the value of their properties" – which might explain why the letter was relatively anodyne in its content.
Our analysis shows about 300 Fluffy homes sold in the three years from 1992 to 1994, as the clean-up drew to a close and immediately after. In 1992, 113 of the homes were sold – more than in any year since.
House sales are clearly subject to many more variables than asbestos, and it is likely other factors were at play in 1992-94. Across the city, house sales dropped off after 1992 with the Keating recession; Fluffy sales seem to have held up longer, but dropped off markedly in 1995.
After those three years, sales steadied at about 60 of the Mr Fluffy homes a year, rising to another apparent peak from 2001-2003. This peak is presumably unrelated to Mr Fluffy issues. The bushfires hit in January 2003, and the rise in house sales across the city coincides with the post-Howard recovery.
A second letter was sent to owners in mid 2005. It is stronger than the 1993 letter, warning owners that loose asbestos fibres might remain in wall cavities. In bold print, it tells them that if they are considering renovations they should tell the builder about the asbestos and use an asbestos removalist to clear fibres in walls. It told them that new laws applied to home owners regarding asbestos.
This letter didn't provoke any obvious increase in sales, with numbers remaining steady at about 60 a year.
So far this year, 30 Mr Fluffy homes have sold, about 22 of them since the February 18 letter that sparked the crisis and has led to the likelihood of a mass demolition of the homes.
This analysis is based on a list of Fluffy addresses to which The Canberra Times has access. It is not the most up-to-date list, which has been refined over recent months as the Government seeks to pin down just how many homes are still standing, with 10 destroyed in the bushfires and others since demolished and rebuilt. The list includes sites in Turner and other areas which have apparently been redeveloped since into townhouses. The issue of potentially contaminated land is one yet to be put to the Government.
These rebuilds, and a few anomalies in the sales data, could not be resolved in our analysis.
The Government has refused to release the list of Mr Fluffy homes for privacy reasons.