Timeframes for commencement of construction under the Commonwealth HomeBuilder program have been extended.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar announced on Saturday that the timeframe during which construction needs to commence in order for new home building or home renovation projects to be eligible for the grant has been extended.

Under previous eligibility rules, property owners could receive the HomeBuilder grant for new home builds or home renovations only in cases where construction commenced within six months of the signing of the building contact.

Following the latest announcement, however, this has now been extended to eighteen months.

Enacted as part of COVID economic stimulus measures, the program provides grants for property owners who either build new homes or substantially renovate existing dwellings throughout Australia (subject to eligibility criteria).

These are valued at $25,000 where construction contracts were signed between June 4, 2020 and December 31, 2020 and $15,000 for contracts signed between January 1, 2021 and March 31, 2021.

In a statement, Frydenberg said the extension would ease pressure on program applicants and the construction sector, which has seen resources stretched amid commencement of many projects within a short timeframe.

“Extending the construction commencement requirement will smooth out the HomeBuilder construction pipeline, support jobs in the construction sector, and ensure that existing applicants facing difficulties in starting construction on their new builds and renovations are not denied a HomeBuilder grant due to circumstances outside their control,” Frydenberg said.

Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Housing, and Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing, Michael Sukkar said the take-up of HomeBuilder has shown that it has achieved its goal of encouraging those who had pulled back from undertaking a new build, or substantial rebuild, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, to enter the market.

(Applications for the program closed on April 14. As of April 9, Treasury data shows that 121,363 property owners had applied for the program. Of these 99,253 applications had been received for grants to construct new homes whilst 22,110 related to grants to renovate existing homes.)

Housing Industry Association Managing Director Grahame Wolfe welcomed the changes.

“The uptake of HomeBuilder has created a lifeline of work for tradies and helped support tens of thousands of first home buyers to achieve their dream of owning a home,” Wolfe said.

“Yet members have been severely impacted by global supply constraints and labour pressures. Builders and their clients have also been juggling delays in finance approvals, planning and building approvals and land title.

“HIA has been working closely with the Government since Christmas providing on the ground data and up to date information on home sales, building activity and supply chain issues impacting the industry’s capacity to deliver on the enormous success of the HomeBuilder program.

“Today’s announcement to extend the start time by a further 12 months from the current 6-month requirement reflects the Government’s commitment to support builders and streamline the delivery of the more than 120,000 homes and renovations now taking advantage of the grant.

“The good work that HomeBuilder has done to stimulate the economy and retain jobs will be fully realised.

“Builders can now continue progressing the contracts they have in an orderly way.”