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House Raisings and Retrofits start to kick into gear

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Simon Mumford

04 July 2024, 10:18 AM

House Raisings and Retrofits start to kick into gearTerry Roth out front of his soon to be raised home on Phyllis Street, South Lismore

Today was announcement day for the $790 million Resilient Homes and the $100 million Resilient Land Programs in Lismore as two NSW Ministers, two local Members (Lismore and Ballina) and CEO of NSWRA announced the North Lismore site for 85 homes and gave more details of the House Raising and Retrofit Programs.

(CEO NSWRA Mal Lanyon, Member for Ballina Tamara Smith, Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Phyllis Street resident Terry Roth, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully and Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib outside of Terry Smiths home)

Until now, the only progress made for House Raising and Retrofits has been made in the Byron Shire, where eight offers have been approved and five offers completed (as of 28 June 2024) and Tweed with 1 offer approved and 1 completed.

We were told that approximately 370 homeowners have been identified as eligible for home raising or retrofit in the Northern Rivers and that over 110 property assessments have been undertaken.

"That's really about sitting down with the property owners, making sure they understand the options," CEO NSWRA Mal Lanyon told media, "As you can imagine, one size doesn't fit all, and it may well be that a solution doesn't work for a particular family, may not work for a particular demographic and person. So, it's important we take time."

The NSW Reconstruction Authority (RA) is working with leading architect for flood resilient design, James Davidson from JDA Co, to establish the program and develop guidance for home raising and retrofit work. After receiving their free in-home assessment report, homeowners can appoint their builder of choice to deliver works suitable to their home to make it more resilient to future flooding.

Eligible homeowners will be granted up to $50,000 for a home retrofit and $100,000 for a home raise with a dollar-for-dollar co-contribution between the RA and homeowners, up to a maximum of $100,000 for retrofits and $200,000 for home raising.

One of those homeowners to be successful for a House Raising and who received his assessment report yesterday was Terry Roth.

Terry has lived on Phyllis Street, South Lismore, since 2006. He remembers the February 28 2022 flood well, saying, "It was pretty harrowing, like it was for everybody." Terry made his way to his neighbours across Phyllis Street in neck-high water in the dark early hours of Monday morning because their house was already raised.

"It was really bad when it happened. When you leave your house and you think it might not be there when you come back, and it is, it's a bonus. I was just lucky it survived because it's old, and it's tough."

Terry didn't qualify for a House Buyback but wouldn't have accepted it if he had.

"I work here, I live here, I love living in Lismore, and I really like the street. Look at the end of the day; if I had got a buyback, I wouldn't have had enough money to go anywhere. I would have to get another mortgage. I don't have one now, which is a really good feeling. Even though it's a cheap house in a cheap area. I don't have a mortgage and that to me is the way I want to roll."

As for the height that Terry wants to raise his beloved home?

"I haven't had an in-depth chat about it, but probably 2.7 (metres) or 3 from where it is now. It (the flood) went in 2.7, so if it goes 2.7 from here, I am above 2022. I don't mind walking upstairs."

As for when Terry's house is likely to be raised?

"We're in the process. We got the report, and the next stage is to get a builder, and they do a scope of works. The ball is rolling, but I'd say six months to a year, I guess. I don't like living in high houses, but I'd be mad not to. I don't like swimming either."

The flood modelling used to determine who gets a buyback and who gets a retrofit was the best available data at the time. However, with the CSIRO data available from July 1, will it be used to recalibrate the modelling and potentially change buybacks, raisings and retrofits?

"All of this information is recalibrated based on any new information as we get it," Minister Scully said. We cannot have just a point-in-time assessment."

"We know that the climate is changing, the impact of natural disasters vary. The frequency and the extent of any event can be very, very different from the one before it. So, just like everyone else, when there is new data to be input into a model, we look at it. However, in terms of what we've used and what we've said in terms of the initial eligibility, it's based on that initial guideline."

Many flood-affected people didn't want to wait until funding was available to raise or retrofit their houses, so they completed the project at their own cost. Are they eligible for reimbursement?

"It's a case by case basis. I would encourage anyone to talk to the RA and talk through the concierge service to see whether it is a possibility. It may not always be a possibility."

Ms Saffin confirmed that has been the case for people who were eligible and whose work was completed according to the standards in the building code.

Today, we embarked on a key recommendation of the NSW Flood Inquiry, to reduce the risk to human life and reduce the frequency of potential flood-related damage. Australia’s largest disaster adaptation project on the Northern Rivers continues its journey.

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