Kambah residents live in fear in their asbestos homes
August 25, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Kambah residents living in homes made of asbestos have called on the government for help following the discovery they're part of a toxic nightmare in the territory.
The affected residents – most of them first home buyers – feel trapped as they did not know what the homes were made of when they bought them and in most cases, they have renovated.
This will have potentially exposed them to deadly asbestos fibres.
The National Capital Development Commission constructed six houses in a street in the suburb out of asbestos as part of a program of experimental modular housing in the 1970s.
While bonded asbestos is found in thousands of homes in the ACT built before 1985 these Kambah homes are built almost entirely of the toxic substance.
Building reports provided during the sales process did not indicate that all external and internal facings in the home contained asbestos.
As the ACT government prepares to make a decision on the fate of more than 1000 Mr Fluffy asbestos homes the Kambah residents want their homes similarly treated.
While chief minister Katy Gallagher says the support package is for houses affected by loose-fill asbestos only she has not ruled out the possibillity of assistance.
"The government is aware of the concerns of owners of these Kambah homes and has sought further advice from the taskforce on this issue," she said.
Ms Gallagher said it was important to note that the houses were not affected by Mr Fluffy but asbestos fibres bonded with cement.
"This material is generally considered low risk if it is in good condition and not disturbed," she said.
Resident Daniel Gray describes the situation as a "first home buyers' nightmare".
He purchased one of the asbestos homes in 2011 with plans to renovate the 1970s property and has pumped all his savings into the renovation.
This included pulling out parts of the panelling to make the living and dining area open plan and modernising the inside.
Mr Gray put the home on the market about three months ago when he had an opportunity to buy into the inner south but a sale fell through following the buyer's discovery it was made of asbestos.
"You buy a house, you renovate it to make it your own home – but when it's time to move on you can't," Mr Gray said.
"It's a first home buyer's nightmare. We've bought a debt."
Taylor Keyth and Christine Uhe purchased their first home in 2009 and had no idea they had bought a house made of asbestos.
While renovations had already been carried out on the property the couple still made several changes including putting in an exhaust fan and air conditioning.
They have a three-year-old daughter, Amity, and twins on the way and would like to extend the home.
Mr Keyth said there was nothing the home owners could do with the properties to make them safer.
"You can't just say remove the asbestos because you'll just have the window frames," he said.
Jay Kelly, who spoke to the Sunday Canberra Times earlier this month, had already completed internal renovations when he found out his house was made of asbestos.
Mr Kelly, who lives with his partner Liz Maybanks and her children, is furious with the inaction shown by the ACT government over the issue.
Another asbestos home owner in the street said he had assumed the house would contain some asbestos when he purchased it because it was an old property.
But he said he would never have purchased it if he had known it was made of asbestos – something he found out a year after he bought it.
"I was quite shocked – I was very angry that the previous owners knew exactly the composition of the house and the building report didn't mention it," the resident said.
He said the government should take responsibility for the homes because it had sold them following their use as public housing.
Meredith Clisby, The Canberra Times
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