High-rise Harry ups his game as Meriton gets iCIRT rated
The country’s next 1 million homes will include new housing types such as the build-to-rent homes planned for Redfern’s historic Clothing Store building on a 99-year ground lease.

High-rise Harry ups his game as Meriton gets iCIRT rated

Rich Lister Harry Triguboff is upping his game, with his company Meriton becoming the largest developer-builder so far to get certified under the new NSW-based ratings tool for players across the construction sector.

Meriton has followed the first handful of builders and developers into the iCIRT scheme developed by data provider Equifax to assess the resilience and reliability of companies and received a 4.5 star rating out of a possible 5-star maximum.

“You always have to change with the market,” Mr Triguboff told The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.

“Let us say I built something 10 years ago. It could have been a very good project, but this is not what people want today.”

Wider adoption of the NSW-based iCIRT scheme – one of a number of changes to the industry driven by Building Commissioner David Chandler – will lead to a higher quality of dwellings in that state at least, as the federal government aims to build 1 million new homes over the next five years.

“The industry need a bit of a shake-up, a clean-up, to be honest,” Meriton construction director David Cremona said. “Meriton had to improve its performance. All of us had to. Anyone who says to you they were doing the same as they did five years ago, they’d be lying.”

Australia built 1.1-million new homes over the five years to FY2016, but that boom also produced development failures such as the combustible cladding-riddled Lacrosse Tower in Melbourne and the construction disasters of Opal and Mascot Towers in Sydney.

The more iCIRT-rated companies involved in the next big push for housing development, the better, Mr Cremona said.

“If they follow the guidelines and rated players are all in the mix, you’ll come out with reliable, trustworthy assets that should stand the test of time,” he said.

Of course, in a time of higher borrowing and construction costs, it’s still not clear whether the Labor government’s goal of 1 million new homes in a five-year period is possible. Mr Triguboff said planning restrictions alone will scupper the plan.

“The laws we have here are such that nobody can do it,” Australia’s sixth-wealthiest person said.

Even so, the man known as “Highrise Harry” welcomed the overall lift to quality the NSW ratings scheme would drive.

“We are the best builders,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having more competition. I’ll be much happier!”

Changing needs

Whether the federal government’s national housing accord ambition will be achieved in five years or not, the next one million homes are also likely to see a wider range of housing types, as policymakers and developers respond to the country’s changing needs.

In Sydney, the NSW government is opening a tender for the first ground lease development of build-to-rent housing, under a scheme whereby it will retain ownership of the land and ask for private development – on a 99-year lease – of up to 600 homes.

Not all the dwellings to be built out of the heritage-listed Clothing Store building at Redfern will be BTR. Three quarters will be market-rate BTR product, 15 per cent will be affordable key-worker dwellings, and 10 per cent will be build-to-sell homes.

The Clothing Store redevelopment is the next part of Sydney’s Redfern-North Eveleigh urban regeneration project aimed at supporting the city’s growing Tech Central precinct.

While the landowner, the state-owned Transport Asset Holding Entity, is also offering ground leases as part of an affordable housing pilot program launched a few weeks ago, the Clothing Store marks the state’s first ground-lease for commercial BTR development.

“This is another city-shaping precinct that will create 3000 square metres of new, green public parkland, reimagine the heritage-listed clothing store into a space for the community, and play a critical role in bolstering Sydney’s status as a 24-hour global city,” minister for infrastructure, cities and active transport Rob Stokes said.