A wave of home-building and renovation work is the goal of a $444 (US$309) million stimulus package unveiled by the West Australian government as it struggles to pull the state economy out of a coronavirus-induced downturn.
The bulk of the package is $319 million to build, buy, renovate and maintain social housing across the state, including at remote Aboriginal communities.
But the talking point is $117 million worth of $20,000 cash grants to anyone building a new home, including properties in development under construction, that they plan to either live in or own as an investment.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the grants were available to foreign and interstate investors.
McGowan defended the decision to not means test applicants or apply property value caps, saying the package was about stimulating the construction sector, which had seen few contracts signed in the past two to three months.
“While it may mean that some people on some higher incomes may be the beneficiaries, the main point of it is to get people back to work, to get apprentices on the job, to keep trainees there and to get more people employed,” McGowan told reporters on Sunday.
“You can always consider means testing and perhaps in a non-pandemic environment that’s what you’d do but … we need to get building happening.”
He urged all local councils to speed up approvals.
Applicants must sign up by the end of the year and can also vie for the federal government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder payment announced last week.
First home buyers can also apply for the state government’s existing $10,000 grant and stamp duty concessions, bringing the total potentially available to them to almost $70,000.
Housing Industry Association WA director Cath Hart said West Australia had the nation’s shortest project pipeline of just 13 weeks, and construction sector workers and tradespeople would be “breathing a sigh of relief”.
The state government says now is the time to build a residence while interest rates are at record lows.
The WA economy is forecast to slump into recession next financial year, with the pandemic delivering a $12 billion hit.
No new cases of the virus emerged overnight on Saturday, leaving the state’s active cases at 31.