Solo mum Treacy Sheehan has to fork out up to $7000 per quarter on strata fees despite only having access to her unliveable home for three hours a week.
The Sydney woman is one of the 132 Mascot Towers apartment owners who are in limbo after major structural defects in the building forced all residents to evacuate on June 14, 2019. Ms Sheehan was only given two hours to pack her essentials before leaving with her then 2½-year-old son.
The apartments remain uninhabitable and its former residents are only allowed inside between 7am to 10am every Tuesday, with owners footing the ongoing bill for the building manager.
It’s just one of the unjust costs Mascot Towers owners face.
Ms Sheehan, who moved five times in the first year after being evacuated, is now renting a home while paying off the mortgage for her Mascot Towers home. The latest rounds of interest rate rises had been crippling, she said.
“I’ve got a bill for the moment that’s $75,000 plus interest but I can’t afford that, so I’ve just let it sit there,” she said.
“I’m paying interest only (on the mortgage), so I’m only working to pay interest and my living costs. I just don’t have the money.
Although owners can access rental assistance packages, that range from $220 to $400 per night for a three-bedroom apartment, the owners are still struggling.
“It’s very, very stressful and you’re living a decent life at all,” she said.
“It’s just not OK to be in this situation in a first-world country.”
After a 3½-year fight, a silver lining could be on the horizon.
On Wednesday, NSW Labor committed to help owners pay for remediation costs by providing low-interest loans, or acting as a guarantor for a loan, if they win the March 25 state election.
They will also legislate to waive accumulated council rates and extend the accommodation support package until the building is liveable.
“This is a measured and a considered response and to be honest with you it’s a response that should have been delivered three and a half years ago,” Labor better regulation spokeswoman Courtney Houssos said.
“I understand that our announcement today won’t go as far as some of the owners might want, but we are absolutely committed to partnering with the Mascot Towers residents to remediate.”
While Ms Sheehan welcomed the latest move by Labor, and said she was “grateful” for the step, she didn’t believe she would return to Mascot Towers.
“Like many other owners, we’d like to put the nightmare behind us,” said Ms Sheehan.
The NSW Greens have also called on the winner of the March election to buy out the Mascot Towers apartment owners before repairing and converting the site to public, social and affordable housing.
The plan has been shot down by Ms Houssos. She said a government buyback at the current apartment prices would see “most owners lose around 80 per cent of their property”.
“We think that it’s important that they take their ownership of the property and allow the capital increase in asset to be realised once it’s remediated,” she said.
Greens planning spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann said the government needed to “step up and take responsibility”.
“The government may have finally introduced legislation to tighten up regulation of the industry, but it still has a responsibility to clean up its mess and support the owners who are left financially ruined by historical poor building practices,” she said.
Meanwhile, residents expect the government to extend the Mascot Towers assistance package past June 30, 2023.
Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello’s office was contacted for comment.
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