Grants of $25,000 offered to home builders

Home owners will get $25,000 cash handouts for major projects under a federal government scheme to save the hammered construction sector.

New house and land packages worth up to $750,000 and renovations worth $150,000 or more will be eligible for the $688 million HomeBuilder program.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the grants were an important part of the recovery from the coronavirus recession.

He defended the renovation price range, which is capped at $750,000.

“Whether you’re spending money on a renovation or you’re building a home, what this is about is the jobs of the people who work on those projects,” he told reporters on Thursday.

The government believes targeting major building projects will help ward off dodgy operators looking to cash in on the scheme.

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese is doubtful the program will spark a rush of people taking out loans or spending cash on major works.

“There aren’t too many battlers out there who have a lazy $150,000,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“That’s a pretty descent renovation to your bathroom or to your kitchen.”

Mr Albanese said his recent bathroom makeover cost far less than $150,000.

“It didn’t have pearl taps, it didn’t have a gold bath. That’s a substantial amount. We’ll wait and see what the take-up is,” the opposition leader said.

Labor is urging the government to fund social and affordable housing projects.

Mr Morrison said state governments were building social housing in partnership with the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.

“The federal government doesn’t have to do every single part of the process,” he said.

Housing Minister Michael Sukkar claimed the Morrison government had done more for social housing than any other federal administration in Australia’s history.

Master Builders Australia had predicted a 40 per cent decline in residential construction with 450,000 jobs on the line over the next six months because of coronavirus.

“We were facing the valley of death towards hundreds of thousands of job losses,” chief executive Denita Wawn said.

The government anticipates the package will support 140,000 direct construction jobs and a million workers in the wider residential building sector.

Mr Albanese rubbished the job-creation claims, arguing the scheme was restrictive and poorly targeted.

The grants are open to people earning less than $125,00 a year or $200,000 per couple.

The money can’t be used on investment properties or to build swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, sheds or garages.

Work has to be done by a licensed builder, meaning owner-builders and DIY renovators miss out.

The program is demand-driven, but the price tag suggests the government expects about 27,500 people to take up the offer.

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