Friday 5 June 2020

Building designers’ peak body calls for HomeBuilder scheme to recommend registered practitioners to deliver greater efficiencies, better bottom line
Design Matters National joined the building-industry in welcoming HomeBuilder this week but wants the government to ensure the design of new homes is undertaken by registered practitioners armed with green credentials, to deliver a better bottom line for Australian homeowners. 

The Federal Government has announced a $688-million HomeBuilder grant program to help the residential construction market bounce back from a recession caused by the Coronavirus-crisis. It anticipates HomeBuilder will support 140,000 direct construction jobs and a million workers in the wider residential building sector.

Design Matters National President Dominique Hunter says: “On behalf of our 2,000-plus Members, we welcome HomeBuilder because it has the potential to stimulate the construction of 30,000 homes by Christmas, and also because building work must be undertaken by licensed builders, which guarantees the quality of the work - and jobs for those working in our industry.

“However, we believe the scheme has not gone far enough and should extend to ensuring the design of new homes is undertaken by registered practitioners. Our Members have consistently been responsible for a significant percentage of the residential design work in Victoria and, armed with high green credentials, contribute to ensuring increased efficiencies and a better bottom line for their home-owner clients,” Hunter says. 

Under the uncapped, demand-driven scheme, home renovations or building work must be undertaken by a building service contractor registered or licensed at the time the scheme was announced. The purchaser can require the builder to demonstrate that the contract price for the work is no more than for a comparable product (measured by quality, location and size) as at 1 July 2019.

“Treasurer Josh Frydenberg predicts the scheme would support 140,000 direct jobs and another 1,000,000 indirectly at a time when dwelling investment is expected to decline by around 20% through the June quarter, so this scheme couldn’t have better timing. Construction is a critically important sector to the economy overall, contributing more than $100 billion to GDP, so it’s absolutely warranted to give it an economic shot in the arm like this,” Hunter says. 

The $25,000 grant comes with strict eligibility conditions, restrictions on what is can be used for, and is available for a fixed timeframe. The HomeBuilder cash grant scheme is, in summary, for:  

  • Renovations and building works carried out by licensed contractors.
  • Building contracts executed between 4 June and 31 December 2020 and work must start within three months of the contract date.
  • A natural person, not a company or trust, who is an Australian citizen.
  • Singles earning less than $125,000 and couples on a combined income of under $200,000.
  • New homes worth less than $750,000, including the land, not for investment properties and owner-builders. The scheme will work along existing state and territory first-home owner grants programs, stamp duty concessions and other grant schemes, including the federal government’s first-home loan deposit scheme and first-home super saver scheme.
  • Renovations on homes worth less than $1.5 million, and they must spend more than $150,000 and less than $750,000 on the renovations.
  • A single renovation or a combination of works (e.g., a kitchen and/or bathroom renovation), but not for additions such as swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, sheds or garages and any other structures not attached to the property.

Industry group Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn has said modelling based on the government’s estimated 27,000 grants predicts the program will be used for $10 billion in building activity, supporting the viability of 368,000 small builders and tradies – the businesses which employ 800,000 people. Wawn has said that with every $1 invested in home building activity, it provides $3 to the wider economy. 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.

Industry group the Housing Industry Association (HIA) has also welcomed the government’s announcement, with HIA’s Managing Director Graham Wolfe estimating the package could generate more than $15 billion in national economic activity, and predicting the supply of new houses could drop to as low as 111,000 in 2020-21, 60,000 homes fewer than first forecast in February this year. The Housing Industry Association estimates at least 14,000 renovations costing over $150,000 are undertaken every year.

“As Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, this grant isn’t just about helping Australians bring their dream home to life, it’s about creating jobs and helping support the more than one million workers in the sector including Thermal Performance Assessors (TPAs), building designers, builders, painters, plumbers and electricians across the country. And we applaud that,” Hunter says.

In response to this announcement, Design Matters National is encouraging Members to share ideas for initiatives, additions or adjustments that home-owning clients could make to increase their homes' performance and sustainability, whether renovating or building anew, as a way of increasing efficiencies and improving the bottom line for home-owner clients. 



Formed in 1983, Design Matters National is a leading professional body for Building Designers and related industry professionals. Our 2,000+ members represent a significant part of the construction and design industry, and we work closely with federal, state and local government to ensure the quality of building design is maintained at the highest professional and ethical standards. We support our members through networking, education mentoring and government advocacy programs Australia wide.

Danielle Johnston, Senior Communications Advisor, Design Matters National. 
0408 379 019