Tuesday, 21 March 2023
Michael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Social Services) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
UKKAR () (): The highly successful HomeBuilder program, a scheme which continues to support thousands of new homebuyers and builders, is at risk under this Labor government. Worried HomeBuilder applicants at risk of losing their grants continue to contact my office, seeking our support to lobby the government to have the deadline extended. Anguished parents contact me on behalf of their children who are at risk of missing out on this significant assistance through no fault of their own. Housing projects have now been put at risk, with the government refusing to grant a further extension. Hundreds of aspiring homeowners across the country, therefore, could lose grants of up to $25,000 just because of supply constraints and unanticipated delays in the construction of their homes. Other delays, including administrative delays at a state and local government level, are causing these problems. At a time when every dollar counts, first homebuyers committed to purchasing a home with the assistance of the HomeBuilder grant, through no fault of their own, are potentially under financial stress because the Labor government will not assist them.
The HomeBuilder program gave Australians confidence and support to build or rebuild a home during a period of great uncertainty, as well as protecting jobs and boosting economic activity in the residential construction industry. We used housing policy to address other important objectives. We put in place the HomeBuilder program when the term 'valley of death' was the grim assessment from the residential construction industry, with 500,000 jobs at risk at the beginning of the pandemic. The program, which at that time provided $25,000 in grants for those who built a new home, which was derided by the then Labor opposition, resulted in 137,000 HomeBuilder projects generating $120 billion in economic activity, so, far from seeing jobs lost in the residential construction industry, we saw an industrywide boom. This was the perfect marriage between economic stimulus and our ongoing objective to support and encourage more first homebuyers—and you don't hear the term 'first homebuyers' from this government. This showed beyond any doubt that a government focused on homeownership can get results.
With the 30 April deadline fast approaching for HomeBuilder applicants to provide their supporting documentation, including evidence of construction commencement, the opposition is calling on the Labor government to urgently provide an extension of time to all existing applicants to ensure that they do not miss out on receiving their grants due to circumstances that are beyond their control. I'll use the example from the former coalition government. On the 17 April 2021, I as minister provided an extension of time to HomeBuilder applicants, allowing them at that time an additional 12 months to commence construction from the date the building contract was signed, and we implore the government to do the same. It is a very simple administrative fix. During this cost-of-living crisis, and with the added pressure of housing supply shortages, participants in the HomeBuilder program should not have to face financial hardship or have their projects jeopardised because the Labor government refuses to make this minor administrative change.
Responding to 9News Gold Coast in March, the housing minister revealed she has no plans to extend the deadline. Sadly, on any measure, the drift from the Albanese government in this respect is a concern. With first home buyers dropping, rents rising, new home sales dropping and construction activity in the residential industry dropping, things are getting worse, not better. The last thing that we can have now is Australians who, in good faith, have met all the criteria of the HomeBuilder grants and undertaken their projects but through no fault of their own are experiencing delays—whether because of supply chain difficulties or administrative delays in getting homes approved at a state or local government level—missing out on grants that they would otherwise receive. It's very simple for the Labor government: with the stroke of a pen, extend the deadline and ensure that hundreds of young Australians don't miss out on the HomeBuilder grant that will set them up for their future.