The state's building watchdog has put home builders in the Illawarra on notice that as the region ups the quantity of homes, quality is not forgotten.
Speaking in Wollongong on Friday to a Business Illawarra luncheon, NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler foreshadowed increased powers that would enable him to expand his remit from multi-storey apartment buildings to detached houses.
From December 1, Mr Chandler will also oversee a beefed-up, permanent Building Commission, with hundreds of staff, targeting dodgy builds before families move in.
While most of Mr Chandler's efforts so far have targeted developments in Sydney, his increased remit will mean more attention on regional areas, including the Illawarra, he said.
"This is a state-wide strategy, not just a Sydney strategy," he said.
Until now, Mr Chandler's remit has been limited to residential apartment buildings, known as class two buildings, but as part of the establishment of a permanent Building Commission, Mr Chandler's sweeping powers to arrive unannounced on building sites for on-the-spot inspections will be expanded to standalone homes, known as class one buildings.
"I was unaware when I first came in that the building inspector didn't have power to issue orders in the class one space until after the building had been finished and a complaint had been made by a consumer," he said.
"It staggered me a bit that they didn't have those powers."
Subject to parliamentary approval, from December 1, Mr Chandler will have the power he seeks, and he intends to use them, including in the Illawarra.
"I think there's quite a lot of lifting of the game that's got to be done in the detached dwelling space here, and down in Shell Cove, there's a considerable number of buildings that have got leaks and other defects there."
After the Mercury revealed widespread defects in newly built townhouses in Shell Cove, Mr Chandler visited the suburb to see the defects for himself. Next time, Mr Chandler said he'd be taking a closer look.
"I've stayed away from that, because I haven't had the powers that I want, but I'll be going back to Shell Cove and we'll be exercising powers where it's appropriate to do so."
In addition to extra legislative powers, Mr Chandler's staff will rise from 15 to 400, as the NSW government creates a standalone building-quality watchdog out of the Department of Fair Trading.
"The first question is, do you have enough resources, yes I do, but I'm going to use them far more strategically."
While Mr Chandler has made headlines for exposing dodgy buildings and calling out developers, he said his ultimate goal isn't just to shame bad operators, but ensure that home-owners can have trust in the industry and encourage more people to work in the sector.
Statewide, NSW faces a massive task to build enough homes to house the growing population, including in the Illawarra where significant population growth is planned for West Dapto, and Mr Chandler said this would not be possible without a well resourced and trustworthy construction sector.
"I've got to get [business] to understand, it's not all about the big red stick, it's about creating a resilient industry, because the number of houses and dwellings that have to be built in NSW in the next 10 years is going right up, and the Premier's clear message to me is 'Commissioner, we want quantity, but don't take your eye off quality.'"
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