Living with strata towers: a case study of metropolitan Melbourne in disruptive global times

Rebecca Leshinsky

Introduction

This chapter explores disruption in the residential strata tower sector. Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria, was traditionally not a city of high-rises. The transformation of the city skyline to high-rises stems from a push to return city living to the central business district, to check the growth of urban sprawl through densification (Coffee, Lange, and Baker 2016), and to enable more households to reside in multi-owned properties (Postcode 3000 2012; Cassidy and Guilding 2011). Traditionally called “strata” in Australia, tower buildings are governed as buildings with multi-individual owned units and owners carrying a share in the common properly. Each state and territory in Australia has its own unique, yet similar, strata regulation and the Owners Corporations Act 2006 (Vic) (the “ОС Act”) is the principal state-based statute governing this type of tenure in Victoria (Leshinsky, Newton, and Glacken 2018).

The chapter first canvasses the history and operation of “apartment law”1 which regulates apartment or unit (termed “lot” in the ОС Act) ownership and occupation in the context of shared land. The discussion then turns to the legal and governance tools owners corporations (also known as body corporates in other Australian states and territories) have to tackle three main disruptive challenges affecting high-rise towers: the sharing economy and short-term rentals, risky building cladding, and the coronavirus pandemic. The chapter explores how law and policy have addressed these issues, highlights gaps in the existing regulatory regime, and offers some reciprocal lessons for comparative jurisdictions facing disruptive challenges in high-rise strata towers. It argues that whilst Melbourne’s strata towers are relatively new, the volume of such tenure in Victoria, especially Melbourne and its surroundings, demands these issues must be srtccessfully addressed. In Victoria there are 101,298 owners corporations, with a total insiued value ofAS277,625,974,116 (STCV2020). Operational governance of such a vast asset base requires robust regulation and effective internal governance regimes. This can be achieved through the ciment law, further legal reforms, and daily reliance on the owners corporation committee, unit owners, and diligent property managers, operating harmoniously and strategically for the interest of the development and unit owners.

 
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