Mascot Towers, Sydney: Rats and squatters move into troubled tower

Former residents of a faulty Sydney building have called on state the government to buy back their homes in a plea to end what one owner described as “four years of psychological trauma”.

Severe structural defects and safety fears forced Mascot Towers owners to evacuate their homes in June 2019, with the building still unliveable. However, residents still face escalating mortgages, strata fees that range from $3000 to $8500 a quarter, and a $10m loan for failed remediation plans.

Camera IconThe Mascot Towers apartment building has been unliveable since 2019. NCA NewsWire/ Tim Pascoe Credit: News Corp Australia

Owners were hit with new concerns on Tuesday after some people were told vandals had broken into the abandoned property.

Brendan Stubbs and Hardeep Saini said owners weren’t aware of which apartments had been broken into; however, there were reports trespassers had taken up residence in some of the units.

“Apparently, people have broken in and are squatting in the units, and there’s a rat infestation,” Mr Stubbs told NCA NewsWire.

“I was quite shocked by that. It’s just so upsetting.”

Camera IconResidents Brendon Stubbs and Hardeep Saini are at their wits’ end. NCA NewsWire Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Representation for Mascot Towers declined to comment when asked by NCA NewsWire and wouldn’t confirm the recent break-in.

After a large-scale $50,000 renovation of their apartment, Mr Stubbs and Mr Saini only had nine months in their home before it was deemed unsafe.

“Our unit sits directly above the support beams where the damage was, so they’ve completely gutted our unit,” said Mr Stubbs.

“It’s a concrete shell now. It’s just really depressing to go in there and see it.”

Camera IconOwners have continued to pay mortgages and strata fees on homes they can’t live in. NCA NewsWire Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Interest rates on a previous $10m remediation loan taken out through Lannock Strata have increased to 11 per cent, sending owners “off the wall”.

Fellow owner Derek Williams said what was once he and his wife Rachel’s “forever home” had turned into “four years of psychological trauma”.

“People are facing bankruptcy. That money was meant to be used to remediate the building, but the defects got worse and we’re not able to remediate the building at all based on that,” Mr Williams said.

Camera IconDerek and Rachel Williams say they’ve been put through ‘four years of psychological trauma’. NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

They argue a buyback plan would allow they to get closure, instead of a remediation plan, which would still tie them to the property once the building was fixed.

“The banks will never lend against these properties because they’re essentially worthless,” Mr Williams said.

“You can’t borrow any more money for anything else. You’re financially ruined.

“It’s like a cancer people are having in their bodies, and they just want to get rid of it and have it fixed.”

Camera IconGreens candidate for Heffron Philipa Veitch called on the government to buy back the Mascot Towers building. NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

In February, the government established an expert panel, led by NSW building commissioner David Chandler, to identify a solution.

NSW Labor has proposed it will partner with the owners to provide, or act as guarantor for, remediation loans while waiving council rates for owners while they are unable to return.

Greens candidate for Heffron and Randwick City councillor Philipa Veitch said the response from both the government and the opposition was “a lot of motherhood statements that are essentially meaningless”.

The NSW Greens have called on the winner of the state election to buy back the apartment block, remediate the building and convert the property into social or public housing. They estimate the 133 units could house up to 250 people.

“The government cannot just leave a ruined building sitting over a major metro station in a highly urbanised residential area forever,” Ms Veitch told NCA NewsWire.

“They’re going to have to do something.”

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