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14th of May, 2024
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

RACHEL PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) Substantive Question: My question is for the Minister for Housing, Minister Shing. Victoria is set to transition out of the Victorian Homebuyer Fund and into the Commonwealth government’s Help to Buy scheme. The exposure draft of Help to Buy shows an income cap of $90,000 for individuals and $120,000 for joint buyers. Compared to the Victorian fund, this is $40,000 less for singles and $88,000 less for joint buyers. Help to Buy proposes a property cap in Victoria of $850,000 for metro areas and $550,000 for the rest of the state. Compared to the Victorian fund, this is $100,000 less for metro areas and $150,000 less for regional areas. My question is: will the minister advise how many Victorians are expected to miss out on buying their first home under this proposed change?

Substantive question – verbal response: Thank you, Ms Payne, for that question. Technically it does fall within the remit of the Treasurer and also the Minister for Planning as far as the design of this particular product goes. What I can, however, provide you with some context on relates to the home equity scheme, which we know has helped thousands of Victorians to be able to purchase a home, and last week the Treasurer was pleased to confirm that there is an additional $700 million available for that scheme to assist people with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent to buy their first home.

This makes a really significant difference for people experiencing the challenges not just of affordability but of availability, and that is where the housing statement comes in, making sure that we can address that need from the middle of Melbourne right out to the edges of the state. We know also that the scheme, which has been continued here in Victoria, enables First Nations people to access the scheme with a deposit of as little as 3.5 per cent, with 35 per cent government equity being able to be provided there. There is a later option for people to buy out the government’s share at those market rates.

As you flagged, there is a change for the purposes of making the Commonwealth a player in this particular scheme, with the changes to the access being outlined by you. This is something which has been identified by the Grattan Institute and others as a sensible reform in making sure that federally this is able to be rolled out around Australia. The federal scheme will be capped at the lower rate, as you have identified, topping out at $90,000 for singles and $120,000 for couples. Housing Australia would provide eligible participants with a Commonwealth government contribution of up to 30 per cent.

Again, there are changes that will be introduced through the federal space. We are really pleased to be able to continue the rollout of this scheme here in Victoria until 2025. It has been a really important driver of ensuring that thousands of Victorians have been able to purchase their first homes, and it sits alongside a raft of other products that we have developed, again, to ease the challenges for first home buyers in an increasingly competitive market, where upward pressure on prices has meant that the proportion of savings to income and expenditure has continued to ever widen. This is something we will continue to work with the Commonwealth on. The Treasurer has already indicated in the budget speech and again in further conversations with stakeholders, as well as to housing ministers, that this work will continue to make sure that Victoria gets the share of investment and funding that we require. I am looking forward to tonight’s budget being able to continue that work and to provide the support that homebuyers are looking for.

Supplementary question: I thank Minister Shing for her response. My supplementary may also be referred to the Treasurer, but you may have input into this question as well. By way of supplementary: Help to Buy is not yet legislated, and it is unclear if it will have sufficient support to pass through the Commonwealth Parliament. It is great that this government has committed to staggered monthly allocations, which will ensure funding is available until the establishment of Help to Buy, but there is a real possibility that Help to Buy will not secure enough support to be passed into law. So will the minister commit to continuing the Victorian Homebuyer Fund if the Help to Buy program is not legislated?

Supplementary question – verbal response: Thank you very much for that supplementary. Again, I will refer that question on to the Treasurer. What I would say, though, in relation to Commonwealth legislation is what a great shame it would be if certain parts of the political landscape, in the upper house in particular, were to block the delivery of support for people to purchase their first home. What a great wasted opportunity it would be for certain parts of the political spectrum to effectively hold first home buyers to ransom in seeking to access the sort of scheme that we know here in Victoria has worked so well. It is a shame that we are losing the opportunity for a consensus approach, where Victoria has led the way in developing products that make a real difference. Let us see if those behind you can talk to their colleagues about facilitating this legislative process at a Commonwealth level.

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