Downsizers have again been largely shut out from the Australian Government’s HomeBuilder scheme, with the government ignoring calls for the scheme to be extended to popular retirement living property types.

On 29 November, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar announced the HomeBuilder scheme would be extended until 31 March.

Eligible owner-occupiers who sign a contract with a builder during this period will receive a $15,000 HomeBuilder grant. In addition, the property price caps for new builds in NSW and Victoria have been increased to $950,000 and $850,000 respectively.

However, there has been no change to the scheme’s eligibility in relation to retirement living properties.

This means that people moving into newly-built leasehold retirement villages or land lease community dwellings, or granny flats, will not be able to claim the $15,000 grant.

In addition, it is unlikely that downsizers building a duplex on their land would be eligible for the scheme, because builders have told the cost of construction and the value of the land would be likely to exceed even the new higher caps in NSW and Victoria.

The only thing which seems certain is that downsizers moving into newly-built freehold retirement villages, or general property such as houses or apartments, are eligible for HomeBuilder (if all the scheme’s other requirements can be met).

However, the latest Retirement Living Census shows that only 12 per cent of all existing retirement villages have freehold dwellings, meaning it will be difficult for a downsizer to find a new village which would be eligible for the scheme. 

Industry reaction

In response to the decision, Retirement Living Council executive director Ben Myers said: "It’s a good thing that the Australian Government has extended the scheme, given it's been successful to date providing economic support."

"However, it is disappointing that we've haven't been able to get the government to provide an opportunity for people to downsize through this scheme.

"Many Australians are living in homes which are no longer suitable for them.

"HomeBuilder would have been able to help them make a decision to move into a home which better meets their lifestyle and health needs".

Meanwhile, James Kelly, the Managing Director of Lifestyle Communities, said: “It is just such a missed opportunity for the government not to take the opportunity to encourage people to downsize.”

“If this grant was made available to the land lease and retirement living industries it would enable people over 50 to downsize, free up equity that can be invested back into the economy, and enable their existing home to be sold to a first homebuyer who is entering the market”.