Australia is undergoing an apartment construction crisis. Walls are cracking, facades are crumbling, and consumer confidence is even shakier. These structural deficiencies are the result of poor workmanship and a government that has been far too slow to act. In Cracking Up, the ABC News Four Corners series investigates this dilemma that has placed countless apartment dwellers in danger.
Apartment living has become an increasingly popular option for Australian consumers who aren't tailored for quiet, suburban life. Apartments promise a more free-wheeling lifestyle in the middle of the action; modern housing that's close to work and appealing nightlife. The ideal has become a nightmare for many, however.
The construction flaws have been apparent for some time. In an 11-year old apartment building situated directly above a subway stop, structural cracks led to the mass evacuation of each tenant. Some cash-strapped residents were left with no place to go. This might sound like an extreme, singular incident, but it's actually indicative of what is occurring throughout the country's apartment housing market. In some sections, up to 97% of surveyed buildings showed varying degrees of defects.
A panel of industry experts and whistleblowers outline the recipe for impending disaster. The defects, we are told, take hold from the onset of the process. Reputed architects are dismissed after their initial concept is drawn. That's when the cost-cutting measures begin. Lead developers take those concepts and hire builders and craftsmen who are ill-trained. It's a rushed and poorly regulated "design and construct" model that's responsible for placing the country's apartment infrastructure in peril.
These defects are an epidemic even across the upper-class apartment dwellings, and they're by no means limited to the occasional leak and mold outbreak. The documentary cameras travel through various buildings, and catch glimpse of a series of severe structural deformities. The filmmakers speak to apartment owners who testify to the stress they live under on a daily basis. Will their homes crumble and take them with it? Will they be forced to foot the bill for repairs themselves?
Cracking Up is an eye-opening expose that portrays an industry rife with substandard labor, cheap building materials, and lax oversight.