With the Victorian election rapidly approaching, strata communities offer a valuable channel for the state government to deliver its building electrification and net zero policies.
When has there ever been a more likely time to see action on climate change?
The move towards greater sustainability through every facet of our economy and society is mobilising and appears to have recently materialised as a result of a “perfect storm”.
Right now, in Australia, a unique combination of political term limits, circumstances half a world away, and the recovery from a once-in-a-century global pandemic have brought about an impetus to adopt more sustainable living at scale.
More and more Victorian consumers are beginning to shift to more sustainable living choices, whether considering or purchasing an electric vehicle for the first time due to increased petrol prices, moving into “smart homes”, or installing ever-more affordable solar panels, as a cleaner, greener economy – led by market forces – takes shape.
Strata living, by its very nature, can act as a multiplier effect towards improving the efficiency of our built environment and urban spaces, and is a sector of our economy and society where industry is uniquely placed to make this happen.
So, what does all of this have to do with strata, and what will it mean for where a growing proportion of us are going to live in future?
As a result of the continual growth in strata living as a result of historic population growth and increasingly urbanised lifestyles, approximately 25 per cent of Victorians now live in strata-titled properties governed by an owners corporation (formerly known as body corporates).
As a representative body alone, Strata Community Association (Vic)’s membership base represents the interests of more than 900,000 individual lots and in excess of 85,000 active owners corporations in Victoria.
Simultaneously, the built environment accounts for approximately 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, according to NABERS estimates, while also being identified as a sector of the Victorian economy and society at unique risk from long and short-term climate change, threatening the integrity of assets, and our ability to provide services that we all rely on.
Unlike freestanding homes, strata communities have an innate advantage for sustainability planning by government, in that an owners corporation is able to facilitate changes across multiple households, as opposed to merely one household.
Investment into the capabilities of strata communities to harness greater demand for more sustainable living choices will best allow our elected governments at the state and federal level to simultaneously meet two competing priorities identified by both the Victorian, and broader Australian electorates in 2022.
This sounds costly; how will this prove beneficial or affordable to consumers at a time when cost of living is front and centre of voters’ minds?
Strata is the missing piece of the puzzle for government to meet the twin objectives of meeting net zero targets and reducing hip-pocket costs for consumers looking to live more sustainably.
Upgrades in strata communities, such as renewable energy, microgrids and battery storage, efficient appliances, lighting, and waste management systems, can and will – if properly considered and supported by government – harness the potential of strata to offer more affordable and comfortable living, while reducing carbon emissions at the same time.
For instance, the Victorian government has acknowledged the need to support a transition away from gas appliances and fixtures in households to more sustainable electrification, a goal consistent with SCA (Vic)’s proposals for underwriting such a transition in strata, where this currently is not supported.
Owners corporations and the strata sector also serve as a natural conduit for the efficient allocation of resources and funding towards maintenance and upgrades aimed at driving high performance from managed buildings.
Now just imagine how much this could be enhanced if they are provided low or no-interest loans or grants to build better sustainability for each strata development across our state via economies of scale.
What’s happening right now in Victoria with the built environment and climate change planning?
February 2022 saw the Victorian government release its long-awaited report and recommendations concerning the future of climate adaptability planning for our state from 2022-2026, in accordance with its commitment to a net zero carbon emissions target by the year 2050 as set out by world-leading legislation in the Climate Change Act 2017.
The primary aim of the government’s adaptation action plan is to build greater economic and social resilience in Victoria to the effects of “locked-in” climate change, through updating building standards and maintenance to alleviate these.
Secondly, the plan aims to support the reduction of emissions across the built environment system, through the use of regulations, “place-based” solutions, and the use of economic, financial, and legal mechanisms to guide changes at the micro level, to facilitate uptake of sustainability.
Why does SCA (Vic) want a greater focus on sustainability uptake by the Victorian Government?
This year’s election will take place in the spectre of the pandemic, and will focus on among other subjects, cost of living, with competing visions of the future on offer to drive economic and social recovery after the considerable sacrifice and hardship uniquely endured by Victoria over two years.
The idea of “building back better” heard around the world resonates especially clear in terms of the opportunity and yet-untapped potential for strata to lead a sustainable recovery, and simultaneously offer convenient, sustainable, and cost-effective living to millions of Victorians. We at SCA (Vic) call it creating stronger, smarter strata, and we welcome initiative from both sides of politics in our state in making this happen.