January 2020

This is the 21st in a series of articles summarising monthly news and happenings in Sydney real estate, and more broadly.

Black Summer

After the Black Summer bushfire disaster, practically everyone from individuals, companies, organisations and corporations have been making contributions towards helping the survivors and those affected by the catastrophe. In property, The Real Estate Institute of Australia has announced an initiative to help with bushfire disaster assistance, claiming nearly $900k has been pledged as aid.

Apart from those who have lost their homes, there also seems to have been a general re-orientation of the broader community towards the reality of our increasing environmental malaise. At least for the moment it does seem the bushfires have helped general public opinion turn the corner on global warming, with a recent poll by Ipsos showing that Australians are now more concerned about the environment than ever before.

There has also been an increasing interest in how Australian homes will fare in a hotter climate.

This can be seen manifesting in many ways. Domain discusses The Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s home loan program for builds or purchases of minimum 7 star energy rating homes. This program is a welcome encouragement for builders and buyers to think about the longer term of  their investments and projects, especially in the face of opinions that our housing won’t fare well in an increasingly hot climate. Hopefully this will go some way to countering the abysmal record of minimum effort put into building, and increase energy efficiency standards. The Conversation also notes that Australian building codes don’t expect houses to be fireproof as a result of balancing budgeting against safety. On the plus side, Victorian development The Cape has also been lauded for their high energy efficiency.

After all the terrifying recounts and personal tragedies that occurred, Domain published a compassionate article that gives suggestions on how to talk to people whose possessions, homes, and livelihood may have been lost – not to mention health and lives of loved ones. According to the article, least helpful comments to survivors are along the lines of ‘at least you’re ok’, ‘it could have been worse’, or perhaps ‘that’s nothing. My friend…’ These types of responses negate the person’s experience, making it potentially emotionally worse for them. There are levels of trauma associated with such high degrees of sudden loss, which those of us on the outside cannot comprehend.

More valuable are ‘I can only imagine how horrible it must have been’, ‘I’m so sorry to hear’, and if appropriate, ‘have you had any luck with insurance?’ I.e. empathy is king. Advice should only be given if it is actually sought. Judgement is a no-no.

While the Australian Government seems to be acting as an anchor on preparations for global warming, the IMF has reduced global economic forecasts with some acknowledgement of the warming climate, apparently coining a new term of ‘green swan’ in the process. Green swan describes a potential global financial crisis based around the economic ramifications of ongoing extreme weather events and such. See: Australian bushfire crisis and an increasingly likely recession as a result.

However, it needs to be said that unlike the Federal Government, corporate Australia is seeing the importance of planning for a future where climate crises are the new norm even if simply through looking at what investors are doing.

Aside from these, there have also been many articles that manage to uniquely mark this point in time. One of these includes the discussion by Domain on the impact of smoke on solar panels, and the resulting increase in load on the ancient coal powered generators; ironically adding the very issue which has made this fire season so devastating (The prediction is that in years to come this type of perspective will be seen as very 2020).

Other point in time stories include this article in The Guardian that discusses a few common sense handy hints about how to minimise the smell of smoke in the house, such as blocking drafts, keeping the interior clean with regular vacuums, wiping down furniture, or using aircon if possible.

There is also a new fashion accessory that has hit the streets: facemask fashion. We’re nothing if not an imaginative bunch. Give us a crisis and someone will have a bright idea about how to adapt in the face of it (no pun intended).