By Francesco Andreone

Francesco Andreone Since we’ve just celebrated the 50th anniversary of strata title in Australia, it’s timely to look at its history and development.

Australia is mostly a country of urban sprawl but it has changed in the past decades, and is still changing. It has 7.6 million square kilometres of space with 22.5 million people in eight major cities (the largest with four million people). There’s a strong culture of property ownership, a stable banking and long-term low-interest mortgage sector, with taxation incentives for residential rental investment property. The property development sector is very enthusiastic, but operates in boom-bust cycles. Today, multi-unit housing represents 25% of total Australian housing with 51% of new housing in New South Wales in 2010 being multi-unit housing, and other states quickly catching up.

Apartments appeared in Australia in the early 20th century. The early ownership structures were via company title. In the post-war period, many more low-rise apartments were built and rented to younger couples saving for a home. In the 1950s, increasing income and wealth levels of baby boomers led to pressure to own apartments. So innovators looked at apartment titling options and Lend Lease (via Dick Dusseldorp) lobbied for, and initiated, strata title laws in New South Wales.

The Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act 1961 started on 1 July 1961. It had 29 sections and two schedules (one of which was only 10 lines long).  The law was quickly copied in Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. Interestingly, the first strata building is still standing in Ashfield, Sydney. It was a pioneering time for everyone.

During the 1970s, strata laws were introduced in Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, so Australia was covered. But in New South Wales there was major reform of strata laws in 1974 with the Strata Titles Act 1973. It had 200 sections, four schedules and separate regulations. During the 1970s, Australian laws were copied in Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, Philippines, Cayman Islands, India and Hong Kong. It was also the year when negative gearing worked to promote strata rental investment, which really got things moving, and a specialised strata management industry began to develop.

In the 1980s, there were more strata law reforms in New South Wales with community title laws allowing estate subdivisions. Strata numbers, popularity and values grew steadily and federal laws opened up large-scale foreign investment in strata property. Plus, the holiday apartment syndrome started in Queensland. Professional strata associations and groups emerged, and regulation of strata managers began in New South Wales and Northern Territory.

In the 1990s, New South Wales made another major law reform by splitting the strata laws into two parts: development and management. These new laws had over 400 sections, 13 schedules and two sets of regulations. Queensland did the same in 1997 by creating core Acts and Regulation Modules for different building types, ending up with over 250 sections and five modules with over 800 clauses. There was an Australia-wide property boom, which meant massive growth in strata numbers. Long term (25 years) on-site management contracts emerged and began the separation of administrative work from building management and maintenance.

In the first decade of the new millennium, Australian strata law was copied in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, in Australia there was a proliferation of law reforms in every Australian state so that we ended up with over 33 separate strata Acts, with 1600 sections, 3000 regulations and 70 schedules. There was also a proliferation of legal decisions in Courts around Australia. Larger and more complex strata developments became more common, but smaller-sized housing units became standard in strata. Strata manager business polarised with large oligopoly style operators and micro businesses emerging. By 2010, the global financial crisis had put pressure on property values and strata cash flows.

Today in Australia there are at least 300,000 strata corporations and close to 3,000,000 strata lots. Strata title has become an accepted form of property ownership with sophisticated laws, operating systems, managers, service providers and owners.

Since it is the main solution for housing Australia’s growing population in our cities, strata title is here to stay and keep growing at an ever-increasing rate as more Australians make strata apartments their homes.

I can only imagine what Australian strata titles will be like in another 50 years, but know for sure that it will change just as much, if not more, in that time.

Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 6, Issue 7, Page 3

Francesco Andreone is an Associate Adjunct Professor, UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment [City Futures] Principal Consultant, The Strata Experts  –

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license