First homebuyer shared equity scheme clears lower house

Andrew Brown and Kat Wong |

Labor’s Help to Buy program has passed the House of Representatives.
Labor’s Help to Buy program has passed the House of Representatives.

A scheme allowing first homebuyers to purchase a property with just a two per cent deposit has cleared a parliamentary hurdle, but uncertainty remains on the program’s future.

The federal government’s Help to Buy scheme passed the House of Representative, following debate on Wednesday.

Under the shared equity scheme, the Commonwealth would contribute 40 per cent of the value of a home for a new property, or 30 per cent for an existing one, allowing first homebuyers to enter the market with as little as a two per cent deposit.

While legislation setting up the scheme passed the lower house, its passage through the Senate remains up in the air, with the Greens indicating its opposition to Help to Buy.

The Greens voted against the scheme in the House of Representatives and have reserved their final position in the Senate.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the program would drive up house prices, and called on the government to make changes to negative gearing in return for the party’s support for Help to Buy.

“The housing crisis is breaking people,” Mr Bandt told the ABC on Wednesday.

“You’ve got renters who are skipping meals to scrape together a deposit for a first home, only to find that house prices have gone up so much that by the time they save, their money is not enough.”

Housing Minister Julie Collins said the scheme would benefit first homebuyers looking to enter the property market as well as boost supply.

“This is life-changing support, this will help 40,000 Australians into home ownership,” she told parliament on Wednesday

“(The Liberals and Greens) are supposed to support Australians into home ownership, yet they don’t when given the opportunity (in parliament) by voting against Help to Buy and denying those tens of thousands of Australians the great Australian dream.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also hit out at the Greens opposition to the proposal, saying the minor party had previously supported a similar scheme.

Housing Minister Julie Collins
Housing Minister Julie Collins says the scheme would provide “life-changing support”. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“The Greens went to the last federal election saying they would support and implement … a shared equity scheme,” he told ABC.

“This is good policy, this is about helping people into home ownership.”

Independent MP Allegra Spender sought to introduce amendments which would grant greater oversight to the shared equity scheme, but were eventually voted down.

“While I support the intent of the scheme, I’m deeply uncomfortable providing any minister with this amount of public money,” she said.

“There’s so little in the way of oversight and accountability.”

Opposition housing spokesman Michael Sukkar also hit out at the scheme, saying similar programs at a state level had not been successful.

“We’ve got a situation now in the middle of a housing crisis where the government is fiddling with a policy that has already been rejected by Australians throughout this country,” he said.