COVID-19 Updates
Fiona Nield

HIA’s data for new home sales which has recently been released, shows that stage 4 restrictions are beginning to impact new home sales in Victoria.

The HIA New Home Sales Report is a monthly survey of the largest volume home builders in the five largest states – and is a leading indicator of trends in the residential building industry. The latest report shows that whilst new home sales picked up across the country in June and July, following the announcement of the HomeBuilder grant, the restrictions on travel and closure of display homes in August has had a significant and immediate impact on sales in Victoria.

All states, other than Victoria, have now seen new home sales rise in August as HomeBuilder and improved market confidence continued to pull the housing market forward, but Victoria experienced a significant decline of 14.4 per cent.

During stage 4 restrictions, Victorian home buyers have been unable to visit display homes and meet with builders around all the critical decisions necessary for contract signings. August’s results clearly reflect this situation. We will be closely watching the sales data for September, and whether the ongoing restrictions impact this and how this affects the number of homes commencing construction later this year and into 2021.

Display homes and centres for material selection are pivotal for the signing of home building contracts and HIA is seeking a safe reopening of both in Melbourne. They operated safely throughout the COVID-19 restrictions until stage 4, with builders applying minimum numbers of visitors, along with appointment only arrangements, and all necessary cleaning and tracing protocols in place. The recent introduction of COVID safe plans brings these practices together providing a solid framework for ongoing management of these premises.

Stage 4 restrictions are also now impacting many Victorians ability to access the HomeBuilder grant, which is available for a very limited period of time. To be eligible for the grant, home buyers need to sign a home building contract by 31 December 2020. Even after home buyers are able to visit display suites and choose their builder, there will be limited time to complete the detailed design requirements before this deadline. HIA is seeking an extension to the contract signing timeframe as it would mean more Victorians would be eligible to receive the grant.

Trade Registration to be Delayed to 2022

HIA has received confirmation from the Victorian Government that the commencement date for the registration and licencing of carpenters has been delayed until the start of 2022 due to the impacts of COVID-19.  This is the first step towards the registration and licensing of building trades more generally.

HIA supports the delay in the commencement of this reform, and it is good news for our industry.

HIA had called for these reforms to be delayed for at least 12 months given the current business environment. Our members are managing the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and their ability to engage and to adopt future reforms is extremely limited in this type of working environment.

From here it appears that the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and draft regulations for the new carpentry trades registration and licensing scheme are now expected to be released in the first quarter of 2021 for public consultation.

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