Qld housing grant imbalance for regional and rural localities: Bob Katter

Nov 23, 2023

KATTER’S Australian Party MP Bob Katter is backing Mount Isa’s calls for the Queensland Government to extend its recently-expanded First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) to include existing dwellings in regional and outback localities.

The Federal MP has generally spoken out against schemes which increase demand, such as subsidies and grants and has advocated for solutions which directly increase supply only. However, Mr Katter said he had been advised with the Mount Isa region’s limited building workforce, increasing supply would be a challenge and a third option needed to be strongly considered – the allowance of purchasing existing dwellings.

“Our State Government is pretty good at consuming the royalties generated by this region, but is it capable of providing what most would consider an essential – housing,” Mr Katter said.

“If the ‘members for Brisbane,’ – and we’re calling them that because that’s really their focus – had any idea of the realities and challenges of Mount Isa, and more importantly the crucial role it will play in this critical minerals era, they would addressing adequate housing as a priority, and I’m told including existing homes in this grant would ease these pressures.”

Veteran Mount Isa real estate agent of City and Country Realty, John Tully said the region featured a “transient” population leading to a high volume of turnover on existing properties.

“There’s always houses for sale, structurally they’re all good but they might be a bit outdated,” Mr Tully said.

“That’s why we’re saying if you give a homebuyer this boost of $30,000, it can go a long way to modernise a home to today’s standards, but $30,000 doesn’t go too far towards building a house, especially out here.

“The cost of materials and freight is always greater in Mount Isa, we’re looking at about $3000 per sqm to build a new house out here. So rather than put a new homeowner, first mortgage under the pressure of a $700,000 loan, why not help them get into a $300,000 house that they can tidy up a bit.

“And we’re not like places on the coast, we might have about five builders, out here we can’t just go to the next town to get a builder; and they’re all flat out.”

Mount Isa councillor Kim Coghlan was also supportive of including existing homes in the FHOG and said the move could help the State Government “return some confidence back in town” after Glencore’s recent announcement to cease copper operations.

Ms Coghlan said helping young families into more affordable, existing houses would help the town maintain its population, and if the grants were used to upgrade these homes, it would make the dwellings more attractive to prospective rental tenants in the future.

The calls support Traeger MP and KAP leader Robbie Katter who called out the new home owner grant as primarily benefiting the state’s south-east corner.

He said since 2015, 6,254 FHOG grants worth $105.2 million had been delivered to North and central Queensland communities compared to 39,470 grants worth $670.2 million down south.

“We aren’t surprised by this, and the KAP has been raising the alarm bells for a long time on the fact the current system isn’t fair for the regions,” Mr Katter said.

“In regional cities like Townsville and Cairns it makes a bit of a dent but the scheme is virtually irrelevant in smaller rural and remote towns like Charters Towers, Ingham and Ayr where there is an oversupply of older housing and where construction costs are higher than the bigger cities.

“As we have long said, expanding the FHOG to include existing homes could breathe much-needed new life into thousands of old homes in decline in small towns where potential owners cannot justify necessary renovation costs.”