Those looking to build new homes had 25,000 reasons to be smiling after Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week announced a stimulus package for the construction industry.
Grants of $25,000 will be available for those looking to build new houses, including first-home buyers, under the $680m scheme. With the state government already providing a $20,000 bonus, first home builders are $45,000 better off.
There are no real catches with the Canberra grant. Homes, including land value, must be worth under $750,000, a criteria met by a vast majority of new south-west homes. Contracts have to be signed between December 31, work start within three months of signing, individuals earn less than $125,000 a year or households $200,000.
The region's new homes industry is booming with waits of between six and 12 months before work can start. We reported in November there were shortages of tradies across the region. So does this package benefit our region as much as others?
The package also includes $25,000 grants for home renovation projects between $150,000 and $750,000.
The idea is right but city-centric. In a regional area where the median house price is $355,000, there will be few who benefit - the rich will get richer. Home owners risk over-capitalising on their investments or taking on extra debt in search of receiving the $25,000 grant. Veteran Warrnambool builder Ray Hollingsworth said the spend for renovations should be halved to $75,000 in regional areas to include smaller jobs for "builders who just live on those".
Would the industry have received a broader benefit if these latest grants were accessible to more people, especially those looking to renovate? Would the government have got more bang for its buck?
Could the grants push house prices higher, excluding lower income earners getting into the market? There is already a lack of social housing in the south-west and with one agency finding shelter for up to 50 homeless families in empty motels during the pandemic, what happens when our tourism industry bounces back? Is this another case of a missed opportunity?