Four Corners 'Cracking Up'

Investigating Australia's apartment building crisis.

We've got a real problem here. It's systemic and it's infecting lots of buildings across the landscape, in all parts of the country. It's very clear." Building defect analyst.

For 20 years the nation's city skylines have been changing with the building of more than 650,000 apartments across the country. "People are reinventing what the great Australian dream means for's been a transformation." Industry spokesperson. Glossy advertising has wooed buyers away from the traditional Aussie dream of a house with promises of sophisticated apartment living and high-end finishes. But the shine has well and truly come off the apartment property boom.

"I have never seen a building that isn't defective in some way. I know it's my job, but even just walking around in public, I notice these things." Forensic engineer.

The emergency evacuation of two residential apartment blocks during 2019 has blown open the industry's secret - buildings riddled with defects. They affect people directly, they affect them every day. They cause a significant amount of damage over and above the defect, and so they're very expensive to fix." Lawyer.

Four Corners investigates Australia's apartment building crisis, from shoddy workmanship to lax laws, leaving owners out of pocket and in some cases out of a home altogether. "If I have to pay for the repairs myself, I would have to go bankrupt. There's no way that I could pay for it." Apartment owner, Canberra. Four Corners will take you inside buildings and apartments in multiple cities to show how entrenched the problems are. "The mould was basically all through the wardrobes, the mould covered the whole of the roof, down the side of the walls and spread over to the other side as well.... it basically rendered the apartment unliveable." Apartment owner, Melbourne.

The evacuations are a public sign of a problem many have wanted to keep quiet. Everyone involved knows the threat posed to property prices when a building hits the headlines. On Four Corners some inside the industry are now speaking out about how this crisis has been allowed to happen. "To suggest that we are policing the project couldn't be any further inaccurate." Building certifier What they reveal is a litany of failure, to regulate and protect the buying public, even in the face of repeated warnings. "What we're seeing is the outcome from a poorly oversighted industry with a lack of competence and in some cases a lack of integrity. Commercial imperatives have really overtaken public interest in terms of decisions that have been made." Building industry investigator Those who know the scale of the problem warn that while new laws may prevent future problems, the legacy of the last 20 years will be with us for decades to come. "There's a lot of existing building stock that has defects in it. And we've heard many reports of owners dealing with those challenges that can't be fixed by reforms." Building industry investigator.

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