The high price of land in the ACT is partly to blame for shoddy construction work on suburban homes, a building consultant says.
Damien Moloney made the observation during the latest round of hearings at the ACT Assembly's building quality inquiry, which is examining the litany of problems plaguing Canberra's development boom.
The Canberra Times last year reported that the cost of land in the ACT's newest suburbs had soared past $1100 per square metre, prompting claims that buyers were being gouged by the government.
Mr Moloney, who works for Gungahlin-based Capital Building Consultants, told Wednesday's hearing that "exorbitant" prices meant that average buyers were heavily restricted in terms of how much they could pay builders to construct their home.
He said in an increasingly competitive market, builders were prepared to "cut costs and cut corners" to win contracts, which led to poor-quality work and, in turn, construction defects.
"When people are going into ballot system, they are not understanding the cost of building," Mr Moloney said.
"People come in and buy a 450-square-metre block of land for $450,000 and then a builder needs to build that home within a certain price to A, make money, and B, make quality."
"I see a lot of cutting costs and cutting corners in buildings to meet these ceilings."
Mr Moloney, whose job involves mediation and conflict resolution between buyers and home builders, said similar problems were not apparent in regional NSW, where land was cheaper.
"I've never had a job out in Googong," he said. "It's the same builders, but [in NSW] they aren't trying to make a living by shrinking costs."
The inquiry's fourth public hearing also heard evidence from lawyer Chris Kerin, who has represented more than 80 owners corporations in building disputes in the past decade.
Mr Kerin represents the Elara apartment owners, who have been fighting for more than seven years to win compensation for defects at their Bruce apartment block.
The owners are appealing a Federal Court decision in February to reject their claim to the builders' insurance scheme on the grounds their application for compensation had been made after the eligibility period expired.
The Master Builders Fidelity Fund is designed to protect consumers against incomplete building work, and allows owners to make claims for compensation if a builder dies or becomes insolvent. Claims must be made within 90 days of one of those events, provided they are lodged within five years of the building's completion.
On Wednesday, Mr Kerin said the narrow scope of the scheme made it "almost impossible" to make a successful claim.
That was a "big deal", he said, because the fund's sole purpose was to protect consumers.
He said the ACT government could consider overhauling the scheme, including extending the five-year eligibility period.