The “regionalisation” of the State’s First Home Owners’ Grant is the only way to address the housing crisis impacting communities outside major cities, Katter’s Australian Party MPs have said.

Responding to a pandemic-induced phenomenon that has seen regional rental vacancy rates drop to unprecedented lows despite a huge number of older homes on the market, KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said now was the time for the State Government to act.

This week the party has renewed its calls for the grant scheme, currently worth $15,000 to those who are eligible across Queensland, to be extended to existing homes in smaller regional centres.

The KAP wants the scheme expanded to $20,000 permanently, and across the board.

Mr Katter said the current scheme only applied to new or off-the-plan builds and not to existing homes, disadvantaging younger people who want to remain in smaller centres.

An additional $5,000 has been on offer since 2020 for first home buyers in regional locations, but again this only applies to new-builds.

Mr Katter said there was abundance of older homes in for sale in small towns like Mount Isa, Ingham and Atherton, but there were few to no real-estate developments underway meaning home buyers could rarely buy “off-the-plan”.

“The only way first home buyers in these smaller centres can access the grant is to be completely irrational, ignoring all the older homes on the market and instead going and buy a brand-new block and build from scratch,” he said.

“The result is a growing surplus of old and abandoned homes being left to rot, all thanks to a combination of market forces and unfair government policy that discriminates against the regions.

“This is obviously not good for communities.”

Mr Katter said current regional trends were out-pricing many from the rental market, leading to displacement and homelessness.

He said these figures were not being offset by an equal uptake in the buyer’s market, though there had been some good movement in recent months.

The rental vacancy rate in Charters Towers has been at or below 0.3 per cent since September last year [1]. Conversely, realestate.com lists 130 properties for sale, with the median price sitting at $130,000.

In Mareeba, the rental vacancy rate is 1.5 per cent [2] but there are 172 homes for sale, according to realestate.com, with a median price of $332,250.

The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) has long advocated for the First Home Owners’ Grant to be extended to established homes in rural and regional areas.

[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-01/no-charters-towers-rentals/100040728#:~:text=The%20city’s%20vacancy%20rate%20has,registered%20their%20need%20for%20housing

2 https://www.tropicnow.com.au/2021/january/25/cairns-rental-vacancies-hit-unprecedented-low-1


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