More than half of the 1021 houses affected by loose fill asbestos insulation are under offer from the ACT Government with 610 homeowners having now received formal letters of offer as part of the Buyback Program.
Of these, 397 of the 610 homeowners have accepted the offer to date. The ACT Government currently owns 72 properties. In total 849 of 1021 homeowners have 'opted in' to get valuations undertaken on their properties. This is an encouraging result with four months still to go with the scheme to close on 30 June 2015.
The Buyback Program is part of the ACT Government's Loose Fill Asbestos Eradication Scheme which will see the legacy issue of 'Mr Fluffy' loose fill asbestos insulation removed from the community. I acknowledge there are some homeowners who would like to see elements of the scheme change in different ways. There are some, for example, who'd like the ACT taxpayer to fund stamp duty for those who choose to move outside the territory or others who would like 'assisted demolition'.
As I have said before, the current program as it stands is already at the edge of affordability for the Territory, with a net loss even after the resale of blocks, of $400 million. For this reason, as well as to provide certainty and equity to the large number of homeowners who have accepted offers through this program, I would like to reiterate that the Buyback Scheme will not fundamentally change.
The current program is the fairest, most responsible and affordable response available to the ACT.
The Taskforce continues to work with individual homeowners to be flexible in areas where it can – such as on preferred and extended settlement times and early partial release of relocation assistance grants to support homeowners transition through the program. It also gives homeowners first refusal on their former block if they would like to return and rebuild.
It is important to understand that Mr Fluffy is not just a mainstream health issue. It is also a significant social and community issue. Prior to the scheme there were tradespeople refusing to enter affected houses, and home care providers and support workers raising safety concerns. The Asbestos Response Taskforce was also hearing reports from home owners that family and friends would no longer visit them in their homes leading to distress. These are serious issues that need to be solved once and for all and the buyback and demolition scheme delivers an enduring solution for the whole community.
The buyback scheme is also a practical response to support homeowners who had been placed in challenging financial positions as many banks would not lend against these properties and they could not be sold for market value.
I continue to encourage homeowners to work with the Taskforce regarding their circumstances.
- Statement ends -
Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases
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