Nervous home builders are urging the federal government to change the rules of its HomeBuilder program and save them a $ 25,000 blow to their finances.
Many of those who applied for the $ 25,000 HomeBuilder Grant worry that they will not be able to start work within the six-month construction deadline and lose the grant.
The HomeBuilder program closed applications on Wednesday and, under its rules, work must begin on a project within six months of signing contracts.
It offers grants worth tens of thousands of dollars to homeowners to either build new homes or extensively renovate existing properties.
But many trying to make the most of the hugely popular program have struggled to get started – with stretched builders struggling to find building materials and local governments inundated with development applications.
Some wonder how they are going to pay for a project they are committed to and fear ending up with a half-built house.
“There are so many things that haven’t been thought of”
Brooke Dalwood, 23, and her partner Erik didn’t start thinking seriously about building their first home until grants like HomeBuilder were first made available.
They ended up buying land in Kangarilla, South Africa, and she said they had done their due diligence – seeking assurance from their builder that they wouldn’t miss the six-month window and wouldn’t miss the six-month window. would not get caught.
“We actually had that kind of verbal guarantee from the builder,” she said.
“That’s why we signed on, we were pretty sure we were going to get that $ 25,000.”
But while Ms Dalwood’s builder was ready to go, her local council was not – she is still waiting for development approvals and time is running out.
“We have been advised that it is unlikely that we will meet this six-month deadline.”
Ms Dalwood said that meant they would end up moving into a half-built house and they would have to complete the work as they could save the money to pay for them, by doing as much DIY as possible.
She said that given the popularity of the program and the issues that she felt should have been anticipated, there was a need for change for people in situations like hers.
“And there is so much money out there that could be put back into the construction industry that won’t be as described.”
Homeowners in distress re-evaluate their options
Melanie Velden wanted to move her growing family to the countryside, planning to build a new house near Clunes, Victoria.
While still planning to move, she said she and her husband took the opportunity offered by the HomeBuilder grant to do a lot more than originally planned.
“The additional $ 25,000 gave us the opportunity to build a house larger than what we envisioned,” she said.
“So it was a great opportunity for us and our family – to have more space.”
But she said while planning documents were filed with council last November, they were still awaiting development approvals – and the deadline to start construction comes next week.
“And at this point everyone’s telling you, there’s nothing we can do, we’re completely stuck with what we have.”
Ms Velden said they had made financial decisions on the assumption that they would receive the grant – conceding that it could have been “hasty”.
They are looking to fill the shortfall, to find what they can do without.
“There will potentially be no curtains in the house,” she said.
“The landscaping and things like that all have to be put on hold, it will save time trying to get those funds to finish everything.”
Unions and industry call for change
Labor and elements of the construction industry have called for a change to the construction start date, suggesting it be stretched to 12 months.
Both agreed that the policy had been a success, but this problem might limit that success, as less investment was directed to the sector.
Denita Wawn of Master Builders Australia said the change made sense.
“The program has worked by leveraging significant investment in residential construction – this change would only help that,” she said.
Labor spokesman for housing Jason Clare said it was a simple adjustment of the rules that could avoid a lot of pain.
“And if anything, it will help make life a little easier for the homebuilding industry, which is busy building houses right now, but expects there to be fewer houses to build next year. “
Applications for the HomeBuilder program closed on Wednesday, but supporting documents are not due until April 2023.
Housing Minister Michael Sukkar previously said the timelines were adequate, but the government was constantly consulting with industry.
He said the homebuilding pipeline created by HomeBuilder will continue to support the industry over the next two years.