Home building boost a much-needed lifeline for Cairns construction industry

"Use it or lose it".

That's the forthright message from Cairns construction industry leaders, who today urged prospective home owners and renovators to take advantage of the Federal Government's $668 million home building stimulus package.

Announced this morning, the HomeBuilder program will offer $25,000 grants to eligible Australians to build or substantially renovate their homes, but only until the end of the year.

For first home buyers, this morning's announcement could result in a $40,000 headstart when combined with the State Government's first home buyer grant.

The renovation component of the HomeBuilder package has drawn some criticism however, with recipients required to spend at least $150,000 on their project before being eligible for the $25,000 boost.

The grants will also be means-tested to exclude couples making more than $200,000 per year and individuals making more than $125,000 per year. 

New home builds will be capped at $750,000, and renovations can cost anywhere between $150,000 and $750,000. Investment properties or owners who want to undertake the work themselves will not be eligible.

Holding Redlich partner and Urban Development Industry of Australia Cairns branch president Ranjit Singh told Tropic Now the stimulus package would deliver multi-faceted benefits to the Far North.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $25,000 grants would help support 140,000 direct construction jobs and a million workers in the broader residential building sector.

"If you've been putting off that renovation or new build, the extra $25,000 we're putting on the table along with record low interest rates means now's the time to get started," he said.

Mr Singh said the amount of government support on offer for first home buyers coupled with record low interest rates could help convince young people to buy a property and remain in Cairns for the long-term.

"The Federal Government stimulus will help turbocharge the construction and housing sector and give locals a chance to build the house they always wanted to," he said.

"People will be uncertain about the economy going forward but this stimulus won't be there forever so it'll be a matter of use it or lose it. 

"With interest rates at historic lows, people who are renting and have a stable income should seriously look at these incentives to give themselves long-term security.

"For Cairns, the stimulus package will help give young people an anchor in the community, which in turn will help stop the brain drain and keep them in our community instead of heading south."

According to Herron Todd White's latest Cairns Watch report, building approval figures have nudged higher in the period from September 2018 to March 2020, with the March 2020 trend building approvals level sitting at 53 new dwellings approved for construction, up from 37 as at September 2018.

But Herron Todd White's Rick Carr warned that any significant drop in property prices could "exacerbate the tough competition new housing faces from prices in the established housing market, and potentially disrupt new housing construction".