Melbourne homebuyers could miss out on the federal government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder grants as a result of the stage four lockdown.
Victoria’s construction industry groups are urgently negotiating fine detail to the planned restrictions amid fears they will hit harder than intended.
Key concerns are understood to centre around whether tradespeople will be able to move between sites and projects during the six-week shutdown, as well as if land development and civil works will be able to continue — vital to preparing land to be built on for the grants.
A raft of industry restrictions including caps on tradespeople on sites were announced yesterday by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who described the coming six weeks as part of a “pilot light phase” for builders and developers.
The Master Builders Association of Victoria and the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Victorian chapter will work through high-level meetings with state government and Department of Health and Human Services teams overnight to address concerns the industry could be practically shut down despite an intention to keep the “pilot light” on.
UDIA Victorian chief executive Danni Hunter said changes to civil works could have significant ramifications for homebuyers and could drastically cut the land able to be built on in time to access the federal government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder grants.
“We were already pushing hell and high water to get more lots to meet demand for HomeBuilder,” Ms Hunter said.
“And if we can’t keep going on the normal rate we won’t be able to deliver. We would say it (HomeBuilder) needs to be extended in Victoria for at least six months and possibly 12 to get us through the shut down and the period needed to start up again.”
Recent land sales figures recorded by real estate research firm RPM Real Estate indicate Melbourne notched more than 2000 land lot sales in June, with a similar amount in July.
The firm previously warned with just 2700 titled lots available as of June, only about 2000 more could be added to the supply by December 31.
Federal government figures showed almost 10,000 Victorians had registered interest in the grants by the end of June.
To date, no Victorians have been able to access the grants scheme, announced on June 4, as the state and most of Australia awaits the completion of an online portal for applications.
Industry sources indicate it could be operational by mid this month, which has prompted some home builders to flag they will be exceptionally busy in the coming shutdown.
Burbank Group managing director Jarrod Sanfilippo said they were yet to “capitalise” on sales made over the last two months thanks to the grants.
“So there is a lot of work to be done to convert the idea of HomeBuilder to the actual contract and to get the site started.”
Ms Hunter added that while documents leaked earlier in the week had hinted no new construction would commence after the 11.59pm Friday deadline to reduce building site workforces to bare minimums, there had been no confirmation this was the case.
“There is no advice to say they can’t commence new projects,” she said.
MBAV chief executive Rebecca Casson said onsite COVID-19 testing, daily sanitisation and temperature screening showed the industries commitment to beating the virus.
However, she warned there were still “challenges ahead” as they worked with the DHHS and state government.
“This scaling down of the building and construction industry will have a huge impact on the Victorian economy,” Ms Casson said.
“Given the 300,000 strong workforce and the 13 per cent of the economy it accounts for we could be looking at daily losses in revenue of up to $456 million with what has been announced. Many businesses will have to consider whether it’s feasible to work under the conditions as they are written.”
She also flagged the industry was seeking more clarity on how the 25 per cent capacity rule would be applied to large commercial projects.
The industry has had an acknowledgement from the Premier to say clarifications were needed and that anomalies would be cleared up.