• Greg Morgan

HomeBuilder Boosts Jobs

The HomeBuilder program continues to achieve great uptake, having reached 82,000 applications and expected to top 100,000 by the end of March. This has created a pipeline of work valued at $18 billion, with economic benefits spreading well beyond the construction sector. While this payment system was designed to help people with new builds and renovations, its primary purpose was to provide new business for tradespeople who were struggling with a lack of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the federal government is expecting to shell out more than $2 billion in HomeBuilder grants by the end of the month. This is much bigger than expectations, with just 27,000 Australian households anticipated to access a grant when the scheme was launched in June, 2020. Instead of the forecast $680 million, the uncapped program will cost the government more than triple this amount.

The HomeBuilder grant was established in 2020 to boost jobs in the construction and renovation sectors. As a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scheme offers one-off grants of up to $25,000 to home owners. Owner occupiers can either use this money to help them build a new home or use it to substantially renovate their existing home. While the scheme had many critics when it was announced, relatively minimal COVID-19 exposure and a strong economic comeback in Australia have made it an enticing proposition for many households.

Between June 4 and December 31, 2020, the grant was available at $25,000. This amount was reduced at the start of 2021, and is now valued at $15,000. In order to meet the requirements of the application, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. The contract must be signed between January 1 and March 31, 2021, and the construction must commence within six months of the contract being signed. Tim Reardon from the Housing Industry Association is expecting a surge of applications as we come to the end of the March deadline.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and despite the tremendous and unexpected cost of the program, the scheme has been a huge success: "HomeBuilder had sceptics, or critics who said nobody would take it on... Not only did they take it on but they have taken it on far beyond our expectations. Just shy of 82,000 applications. This is a pipeline of work of some $18 billion." Rather than the "chasm" it was facing, Mr Morrison said the residential building and construction industry now has almost two years' worth of work.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, is an agreement with the Prime Minister, saying the program continues to have a widespread economic impact: "The residential building industry has a three times multiplier effect of economic activity, the biggest of any industry... So this is not just saving the jobs of our industry, it's also saving the jobs of the building supply company. It's also saving those guys selling the bacon and egg and the coffees at the local store."

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