Matt Coughlan, Katina Curtis and Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)
The Morrison government’s plan for a tradie-led recovery from the coronavirus has received a mixed response, with calls for social housing to be included in the scheme.
Home owners will get $25,000 cash handouts for major projects under the plan to save the hammered construction sector.
New house and land packages worth up to $750,000 and renovations worth $150,000 or more will be eligible for the $688 million HomeBuilder program.
The Housing Industry Association believes the scheme will lead to $15 billion worth of economic activity and support hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Australian Council of Social Service and Anglicare Australia say the government should instead ensure everyone has a roof over their head.
“There is no argument that the construction sector needs a shot in the arm, but this money will not go where it is most needed,” ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said.
Labor is also urging the government to fund social and affordable housing projects.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state governments were building social housing in partnership with the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.
He has defended the renovation price range, which is capped at $750,000.
The government believes targeting major building projects will help ward off dodgy operators looking to cash in on the scheme.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese is doubtful the program will spark a rush of people taking out loans or spending cash on major works.
Mr Albanese said his recent bathroom makeover cost far less than $150,000.
“It didn’t have pearl taps, it didn’t have a gold bath. That’s a substantial amount. We’ll wait and see what the take-up is,” he said.
Master Builders Australia had predicted a 40 per cent decline in residential construction, with 450,000 jobs on the line over the next six months, because of the coronavirus.
The government anticipates the package will support 140,000 direct construction jobs and a million workers in the wider residential building sector.
Mr Albanese rubbished the job-creation claims, arguing the scheme was restrictive and poorly targeted.
The grants are open to people earning less than $125,00 a year or $200,000 per couple.
The money can’t be used on investment properties or to build swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, sheds or garages.
Work has to be done by a licensed builder, meaning owner-builders and DIY renovators miss out.
The program is demand-driven, but the price tag suggests the government expects about 27,500 people to take up the offer.
It comes as Victorian authorities are concerned a second wave of the pandemic could sweep the state with protesters set to ignore COVID-19 rules.
Thousands of people are expected to pour into Melbourne CBD on Saturday in response to the Black Lives Matter movement over continued Aboriginal deaths in custody and the death of George Floyd in the US.
The NSW government is urging travellers to take care over the June long weekend, the first opportunity for many to leave their home towns since February.
There are fewer than 500 active cases of coronavirus in Australia.