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Government urged to expand HomeBuilder to social housing

The federal government has “a golden opportunity” to help ease homelessness by extending HomeBuilder to social and affordable housing, according to Everybody’s Home.

While applications for the HomeBuilder scheme have now closed, a group campaigning to end homelessness has suggested that the government could reinvent the scheme to help increase social and affordable housing.

Everybody’s Home – the national campaign to end homelessness – has said that there is a “a golden opportunity” to “capitalise on the stimulatory effect” of HomeBuilder by extending the program to social and affordable housing, easing the risk of homelessness following the culmination of JobKeeper and COVID-19 support measures.

The group noted the success of HomeBuilder, which has contributed to a 20-year record for the number of construction commencements on detached houses and helped support the residential construction sector through 2021 (and into next year).

Economic modelling estimates that the scheme has contributed to $103 billion in broader economic activity and the creation of 340,000 jobs.

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Ahead of the government’s budget for the year 2021-2022 (scheduled for 11 May), Everybody’s Home is urging the government to consider expanding the scheme to have a social housing angle.

Kate Colvin, national spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said: “The $100 billion stimulus impact of HomeBuilder is great news for construction. If we directed some of this to social housing, it would be even more powerful, because we could ease the threat of homelessness for those families left behind by the current housing boom.

“Every economist worth their salt agrees taxpayers receive a compelling return on their dollar when it is invested in social housing. We can create jobs, ease homelessness and reduce the demand on other government services such as hospitals and homeless shelters,” she said.

“The federal government can get maximum impact from every dollar they spend on social housing by encouraging the states to match their contribution and partner with them in social housing growth,” she suggested.

According to Ms Colvin, having a “roof over your head is the foundation stone for re-entering the workforce or getting an education”, while highlighting that the people who need homes are often women and children “escaping family violence or people recovering from an unexpected illness or trauma”.

“As the success of HomeBuilder shows, there are enormous economic benefits to stimulating the construction sector. By expanding this stimulus to social housing, we can also achieve a powerful social dividend,” she said.

The scheme, which was extended last year to provide a $15,000 grant for building contracts (new builds and substantial renovations) signed between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021 (inclusive), aims to provide eligible owner-occupiers (including first home buyers) with a grant to build a new home or substantially renovate an existing home.

It has a secondary aim of assisting the residential construction sector by encouraging the commencement of new home builds and renovations.

While applications for both iterations closed on Wednesday (14 April), applicants have until 30 April 2023 to submit all supporting documentation (such as invoices for work done and proof that construction has started) to their state or territory revenue office.

[Related: HomeBuilder applications now closed]

Government urged to expand HomeBuilder to social housing
Government urged to expand HomeBuilder to social housing
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