Victorian Government unveils new initiatives for private renters, first home buyers and social housing organisations

THE Victorian Government has unveiled its 'Homes for Victorians' package, which aims to provide a coordinated approach across government and across the state to support first home buyers, private renters and social housing organisations.

The package includes a doubling of the First Home Owner Grant to $20,000 in regional Victoria, opportunities for first home buyers to co-purchase their home with the Victorian Government, introduction of long-term leases, the development of more social housing, and the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers of homes up to $600,000.

In a statement, Premier Daniel Andrews said the Homes for Victorians package builds on existing work being done, including the soon-to-be released Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, reform of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, the Better Apartment guidelines and the Family Violence Housing Blitz.

Melbourne West CBD
Above: Melbourne West CBD / by Adam Selwood.

The $50 million co-purchase scheme – titled HomesVic and to be introduced in 2018 – will target first home buyers who are able to meet regular mortgage repayments but haven't been able to save a big enough deposit. Under the scheme, HomesVic will co-purchase up to 400 homes, taking an equity share of up to 25 per cent in these properties. It will be available for both new and existing homes.

By allowing home buyers to purchase less than 100 per cent of the property, they will require a smaller deposit and are able to enter the market sooner. In the long term, it will also mean having a smaller loan to service.

Meanwhile, stamp duty will be abolished for first home buyers for purchases below $600,000, and those buying a first home valued between $600,000 and $750,000 will also be eligible for a concession, applied on a sliding scale. The exemption and concession will apply to both new and established homes.

In addition, the government will remove off-the-plan stamp duty concessions on investment properties. The off-the-plan stamp duty concession will now be available solely for those who intend to live in the property or who are eligible for the first home buyer stamp duty concession.

To address the number of properties being left empty across inner and middle suburbs of Melbourne, a Vacant Residential Property Tax will be levied at 1 per cent, multiplied by the capital improved value of the taxable property.

There will be a number of exemptions to the levy, recognising there are some legitimate reasons for a property being left vacant, including holiday homes, deceased estates and homes owned by Victorians who are temporarily overseas.

In a boost for regional home buyers, the First Home Owner Grant will be doubled from $10,000 to $20,000, commencing 1 July 2017. The increased grant will be available to first home buyers building new homes in regional Victoria valued up to $750,000.

The government is also set to give first home buyers priority in government-led urban renewal developments, with at least 10 per cent of all properties allocated to first time buyers. This approach will be used for the first time at the 56-hectare Arden development in North Melbourne.

Renters are also expected to benefit, with a new long-term standard tenancy agreement to be developed for leases of more than five years. The government will also amend the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure it covers leases for longer than 5 years.

The new standard tenancy agreement will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and implemented in 2018. A website will also be developed to connect people looking for long-term leases with available properties.

Last month, the Victorian Government announced that social housing organisations will be able to utilise a $1 billion fund and access low interest loans using the borrowing power of the government.

Photo: Melbourne West CBD / Adam Selwood / Licensed under Creative Commons BY 2.0.

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