National

Labor wants housing plan to support jobs

By AAP Newswire

Federal Labor is urging the Morrison government to pursue a housing stimulus plan to support the construction sector, which is "about to fall off a cliff" because of the COVID-19 crisis.

It says the Master Builders Association estimates 450,000 tradies jobs could be at risk as a result of the pandemic if the government doesn't act.

The association also says that before COVID-19 hit between 171,000 to 160,000 homes were expected to be built this year. Now it is predicted to be as low as 100,000.

"The predictions are scary," Labor's housing spokesman Jason Clare told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

"That's why we are calling on the government to develop a housing stimulus package as quickly as possible."

One initiative would be to lift the cap on its First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for people wanting to build new homes.

The scheme assists 10,000 first home buyers each financial year to purchase a home with a deposit of as little as five per cent, without the need to take out mortgage insurance.

"Lift the cap and help more first home buyers to build a new home sooner, and help keep Australia's tradies at work over the next few months," Mr Clare said.

The existing cap of 10,000 would remain in place for first homeowners purchasing existing homes.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said come August and September, construction "just falls off a cliff".

He said the cap has already been reached and lifting it would be a "sensible and practical measure"" that would create jobs for tradies and right across the board for the sector.

"We know how important this industry is to stimulate the economy," he told reporters.

Labor has already called on the government to work with state governments, the private sector and superannuation funds to invest in more social and affordable housing, as well as repairing and maintaining existing social housing.

It also wants more affordable rental housing built for essential workers - such as nurses, cleaners, aged care workers, supermarket workers, bus drivers, and other front-line workers - so they are closer to where they work.