Tasmania’s housing construction industry is urging governments to extend the HomeBuilder grants scheme by another 12 months to avoid workforce issues early next year due to short timeframes.
Master Builders and Wilson Homes believed the scheme had increased engagement with the construction industry, although federal funds were yet to flow to applicants.
For the federal scheme, 90 applications had been received from Tasmania – 79 for new builds and 11 for renovations – according to data released to the Senate COVID committee last week.
Master Builders Tasmania stated that 1400 people had registered with the HomeBuilder schemes in the state.
Wilson Homes chief executive officer Tim Ribbons said the tight timeframes in the scheme meant it should be extended by 12 months.
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“HomeBuilder brought the clients back and we’ve seen a substantial increase in display home traffic and deposit numbers,” he said.
“But with this increase in demand and the very tight timeframe imposed on the scheme, there is a genuine concern around the amount of activity required in the January to March period next year to meet the scheme’s timeframes.”
Wilson Homes reported a 90 per cent drop in display home traffic in March and April, and a drop in deposits of between 30 and 50 per cent. Mr Ribbons said HomeBuilder had assisted in bringing customers back.
The federal government estimated that 27,000 HomeBuilder grants would be provided from its scheme, 20,000 of which would be for new builds. Only Tasmania and South Australia have provided applicant figures.
Master Builders Tasmania executive director Matthew Pollock said land availability also needed to be addressed.
“Builders are reporting that a shortage of shovel ready land is causing them to turn away clients because titles or permits which might be issued towards the end of the year will not give enough time to meet the tight timeframes,” he said.
“There is currently no certainty that an extension can be granted, so builders are simply not taking the risk.”
Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the numbers appeared lower than forecast, and he believed the lack of an asset test meant it was inequitable.
“It’s likely that someone who was already going to proceed with these works is going to get the subsidy, so it won’t achieve it’s aim to increase investment,” he said.
“We’d rather see the money prioritised where it’s fairer: social housing.
“We’ve been arguing for years that the federal government has a stronger leadership role to play in social housing.”
As of March, Housing Connect reported 3578 applications on the public housing waiting list in Tasmania, which has been steadily increasing since December 2019. The average time to house priority applicants was 59 weeks.