ANALYSIS: On Thursday, the Morrison government introduced its HomeBuilder (insert trademark) scheme with the intention of supporting residential home builders that are starting to see work dry up.
The scheme offers $25,000 for people to upgrade or build their homes. But there’s a catch, or should we say catches, that make this subsidy available to a relatively small, relatively wealthy cohort.
First of all, you have to spend between $150,000 and $750,000 of your own money. This has been met with a combination of amusement (opposition leader Anthony Albanese said today that a “gold bath and pearl taps” would have to go into an eligible bathroom reno) and despair (the homeless, the poorly and unsafely housed, home energy efficiency enthusiasts).
True, efforts have been made to stop the uber-rich getting this thing. The house you’re renovating must be valued at less than $1.5 million prior to renovations, and your taxable income must be less than $125,000 a year (or less than a combined $200,000 per year if you live with your partner).
But when renovations are meant to improve the accessibility, safety or liveability of the home, people have been left scratching their heads wondering exactly what is eligible.
As many people called or texted into Fran Kelly on ABC’s RN Breakfast on Thursday, the $150,000 minimum is astronomically more than a back step out to the garden for a pensioner or insulation in a draughty home.
Interviewed on the show was chief executive of National Shelter, Adrian Pisarsk, who said not including social housing in such a scheme was a missed opportunity.
This sentiment was echoed in an opinion piece by Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue executive director Adam Leto, Rob Harley in the AFR, Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson in The Guardian, and a whole lot of other people on Twitter.
#auspol The #homebuilder scheme designed by #motormouth is for his constituency, the wealthy middle class. People needing to fix leaking roofs or bushfire damage get nothing. Morrison’s Mosman Money Misappropriation.
— Bruce Haigh (@bruce_haigh) June 4, 2020
Helping people already under mortgage stress to keep their homes is the priority in Australia’s outer urban growth areas. If you’re already struggling to pay the mortgage, #HomeBuilder renovations are an unattainable luxury. https://t.co/gyp0MhQW4w pic.twitter.com/Zb8N6eOd9n
— GrowthAreasAlliance (@NGAA_AU) June 4, 2020
— superathlete9 (@superathlete9) June 4, 2020
— Cr Josh Fergeus (@JoshFergeus) June 3, 2020
The Master Builders Australia welcomes the “lifeline” to the industry but has also been part of an unlikely alliance with CFMEU to suggest pumping $10 billion into social and affordable construction fund to keep jobs in construction and deliver social and economic outcomes. These two aren’t out on their own – they are part of growing chorus of voices calling for the same thing, including Labor and the Greens.
Sustainability is the other missing ingredient. Trivess Moore, a senior lecturer in construction at RMIT and member of the Sustainable Building Innovation Laboratory, said that it’s “a wasted opportunity for any building industry stimulus not to be linked to improving quality and sustainability outcomes for households.”
He suggested stimulus for energy upgrades could be checked by certified sustainability assessors to ensure quality.
One would hope the government will throw some money towards social and affordable housing, and sustainability, in subsequent stimulus packages. But we aren’t holding our breath.