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No timeline for when $25k HomeBuilder scheme will be up and running

The Federal Government launched the HomeBuilder scheme on June 4, but just over three weeks later it is still not operational and there is no start date in sight.

Each state and territory is responsible for administering the scheme and, according to Treasury, a national partnership agreement is still being negotiated.

So far, only Tasmania and South Australia are signatories to HomeBuilder.

In Queensland, a spokesperson for Treasurer Cameron Dick said he had “expressed concerns about its design and implementation” and the department was still working through the detail of how the scheme would function.

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“The Queensland Government supports the intent of the policy and is seeking to resolve the remaining issues around administration,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re continuing to work with the Federal Government to resolve those matters as quickly as possible.”

The ABC understands New South Wales Treasury is responsible for drafting the national partnership agreement, but queries put to it received no response.

According to Master Builders Queensland, there were key questions that needed to be urgently answered in order to provide certainty to buyers and the construction industry.

Deputy CEO Paul Bidwell said his organisation had been inundated with queries about the scheme that it could not answer.

“There is no problem with signing contracts between the 4th of June and the end of December,” Mr Bidwell said.

“The issue will be starting construction within three months of signing the contract — that will be tight for some people,” he added.

The other major question is at what juncture does the grant actually land in the account of the recipient.

“It’s stopping people signing contracts, because they want to know with some certainty that they’re going to get the grant,” Mr Bidwell said.

“We would hope by the end of this month people will be able to apply and the builds will start.”

A sandwich board advertising a house and land package
Developers, buyers and builders agree the HomeBuilder grant has created a resurgence in interest for house and land packages.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

Buyers say their finance is hamstrung by HomeBuilder

First home buyers Troy and Alana Simons are exactly the kind of people both the state and federal governments are targeting for a construction-led economic recovery.

The couple have selected a block of land in South-East Queensland’s Lockyer Valley where they plan to build their dream home.

But they cannot proceed with the sale until the HomeBuilder grant and Queensland’s first home buyer grant comes online.

“Everything is up in the air at the moment,” Mr Simons said.

“You’re picking your house design, you’re picking your block, but you need to lock your finance in before you can do anything.

Troy and Alana Simons stand in a street smiling at the camera.
First-home buyers Troy and Alana Simons can’t proceed with building their home until they have certainty about the HomeBuilder scheme.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

In a statement, the Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar, said HomeBuilder had been specifically designed to complement existing state and territory first home owner grant programs, stamp duty concessions and other grant schemes, as well as the Government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme.

“The Commonwealth is engaged at present with state and territory governments on the national partnership agreements to make the delivery of the HomeBuilder as seamless as possible,” Mr Sukkar said.

While the scheme has been forecast to cost taxpayers $688 million, it is uncapped, and based on the 32,923 in registrations of interest so far, it could end up costing into the billions.

“HomeBuilder is demand driven and grants are not limited,” Mr Sukkar said.

“Eligible home buyers who enter into a building contract for a new home or rebuild, between June 4 and December 31, 2020, will receive the grant.”

Concerns tight criteria could impact on regions

On the outskirts of Toowoomba, developer Stephen Bowers said HomeBuilder had already heralded in a turnaround for the construction industry.

He said he had grave concerns about the fate of The Avenues at Highfields, which entered the pandemic with all 60 lots unsold.

Stephen Bowers looks concerned.
Stephen Bowers says he had felt sick over what the pandemic might have meant for his residential development at Highfields.(ABC News)

“In the COVID-19 environment, we had nearly 60 lots that we were bringing on — and that made me fairly sick in the stomach about what was going to happen,” Mr Bowers said.

“Since HomeBuilder came along, we’ve sold 30 lots in 14 days.

“It’s incredible — I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career.”

Mr Bowers said HomeBuilder, as well as Queensland’s $15,000 first home buyer grants for new homes, and the $5,000 regional bonus grants, had doubtlessly been a game changer.

But he also had concerns about unscrupulous operators who may take advantage of inexperienced, young buyers as well as how the industry would scale up to meet demand.


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