SIX weeks after the federal government announced its $25,000 HomeBuilder COVID-19 stimulus grants, the NSW government is yet to provide the paperwork for people to apply.
Prominent Hunter Region builder Hilton Grugeon says the time taken is "a disgrace" and has slammed the process as biased against the very people who need help most in hard times.
Mr Grugeon said he was concerned for people who wanted to "get into the housing market" but who could not do anything because there was no form for them to fill out, only a fact sheet and a frequently asked questions form on a Revenue NSW website had been promising since June 12 that the scheme would be open "as soon as possible".
A spokesperson for NSW Finance Minister Damien Tudehope responded to questions on the delay by saying only that the government had agreed to administer the program and that "the application process and administration of the grants are being finalised with the Commonwealth and the other states and will be made available shortly".
The Master Builders Association (MBA) and the Housing Industry Association (HIA) both reconfirmed their support for the program yesterday, but said the operation of the scheme had been the subject of rounds of discussions between themselves, the state and federal governments and banking representatives.
NSW MBA executive director Brian Seidler said the main concern was how mortgage lenders would treat would-be borrowers who included the $25,000 - or the promise of it - in any home-loan applications.
Federal Housing Minister and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said: "HomeBuilder has commenced and eligible home buyers who enter into a contract for a new home or rebuild, between 4 June and 31 December 2020, will receive the grant."
Mr Sukkar said the scheme had already sparked new home sales, which he said were up 77 per cent in June, according to the HIA. He said the MBA had described HomeBuilder as "most effective stimulus in decades".
"Grants will be paid on specific construction milestones, independent of when application paperwork is submitted," Mr Sukkar said.
"Should these milestones be achieved, grants will be paid.
"We are encouraging states and territories to have their application processes in place as soon as practicable, and we are confident this will be delivered to allow applicants to meet all applicable time frames."
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme at a new housing estate in the Queanbeyan suburb of Googong, he said it was expected to cost about $680 million and provide grants to about 27,000 applicants.
"This increase in residential construction will help to fill the gap in construction activity expected in the second half of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic," Mr Morrison said at the time.
Mr Sukkar's office said yesterday that more than 701,000 visits had been made to the federal government's HomeBuilder's webpage, and that more than 39,600 people had "registered interest" in "receiving updates" on the program. More than 11,300 were from Queensland, 10,800 came from Victoria and 7300 from NSW.
Revenue NSW is working to open the HomeBuilder grant for eligible NSW owner-occupiers as soon as possible. We will update our website with more information on the HomeBuilder grant application process as soon as it becomes availableRevenue NSW HomeBuilder website, Wednesday
The guidelines say applicants must be Australian citizens aged 18 or over - companies or trusts cannot apply - with income ceilings of $125,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.
For new homes, the value of the project including land must be under $750,000.
For renovations, applicants must spend between $150,000 and $750,000 on a home valued before work started at less than $1.5 million.
The government said yesterday that grants on new builds would be paid after work had started and a first progress payment had been made to the builder.
With "substantial rebuilds", the grant would not be paid until "at least $150,000 of the contract price has been paid in respect of the renovation".
For new homes or off-the-plan purchases, the grant would be paid once the applicant's name was registered on the title.
"It would be highly unlikely that any applicant has yet reached these stages," a government source said.
"It's at the discretion of financial institutions as to whether, or at what point, they would consider HomeBuilder when assessing an application for finance."
Mr Grugeon said all of that ignored the reality of an applicant needing to know whether they would receive a grant before they could move to the steps the government was referring to.
"Registering to receive an update from Canberra is no use when the state government is running the scheme and doesn't have an application form," Mr Grugeon said.
"This is a building industry stimulus package and right now it isn't stimulating anything," Mr Grugeon said.
"Even today we checked again and were told, no, you'll just have to keep looking at the website.
"It's been like that for six weeks, saying we'll open the scheme as soon as possible and we'll update the website when the information is available.
"They should have sat down even before the announcement and worked out within a week, here's the rules, this is what they are, you have a checklist to go through, you put your application in and if you meet the conditions, you are approved, or not.
"But they can't tell you that because they don't know themselves and they don't know what they are doing."
While the HIA and MBA welcomed the scheme, both said they were hoping for help with renovations under $150,000.
"In the Hunter, $70,000 to $80,000 would be more the market," the HIA's Craig Jennion said.
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