Queensland to review hundreds of HomeBuilder applications after satellite image bungle

Hundreds of Queensland homebuyers who cried foul after their applications for the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant were rejected on the basis of satellite images could now be set to get their cash after all.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has announced the cases of around 200 HomeBuilder applicants will be reviewed.

It follows an exclusive article published by nine.com.au on Monday featuring multiple homebuyers who said they had unfairly missed out on the grant due to satellite images used by the state government to claim work had started on their properties before HomeBuilder came into effect on June 4, 2020.
Satellite images such as this one were used to reject HomeBuilder applications. (Supplied: Erica Newman)

In the majority of cases, the satellite images showed civil works, such as land clearing, the developers had carried out before the properties were even sold and development approval granted. 

While the grant is a federal government initiative, the states and territories are responsible for administering it.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Dick laid the blame for the apparent bungle on the federal government, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison had done a “bad job” of designing the program.

“Scott Morrison ended up introducing a definition of ‘new home’ that was contrary to the longstanding and well-understood arrangements that apply for first home owners grants,” Dick said. 

“Scott Morrison’s approach, along with restrictive guidance from the federal government, meant that the Queensland Revenue Office was required to refuse some applications on the basis that work had commenced prior to the start of the program.”

The definition of a “new home” had now been relaxed, which would allow the bulk of the rejected applications to be approved, Dick said.

Clint Calman with his daughter Charli, and the townhouse he will move into when it is completed in six weeks' time.
Clint Calman had his HomeBuilder grant application rejected, while his neighbour in the townhouse next to him had theirs approved. (Supplied)

Queensland single dad Clint Calman is one of the applicants who had his $25,000 grant rejected on the basis of the satellite images.

Calman bought a townhouse in Southport, Queensland in December 2020. 

Calman said his neighbour within the same development had their grant approved.

“I share a wall and a concrete slab with my neighbour and they got paid their grant back in November with no questions asked,” Mr Calman said.

Calman said he had received an email from Queensland’s Revenue Office yesterday to inform him his grant application had now been approved.

“The right decision has been made but it’s definitely been a frustrating process to get here,” Calman, who started up a Facebook group to fight the government’s use of satellite imagery, said.

Queensland appeared to be the only state or territory using satellite images to reject applications, Calman said, as all of the Facebook group’s 100-plus members were from Queensland.

“I find it a bit disappointing that they’ve tried to put the blame onto the federal government because no other state has done this,” he said.

Gold Coast resident Holly Trezise is another homebuyer who was caught out by the government’s use of satellite imagery after buying a townhouse off the plan in Upper Coomera.
Holly Trezise and her fiance Matthew. The couple shared a fence with their neighbours in the same development who were approved for the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant while they were rejected.
Holly Trezise and her fiance Matthew. The couple shared a fence with their neighbours in the same development who were approved for the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant while they were rejected. (Supplied: Holly Trezise)

Trezise and her fiance Matthew share a fence with a neighbour who was approved for the grant, while they were rejected.

“We met our neighbours on the day we looked at a display home for the build and applied for the grant within weeks of each other,” she said.

Trezise said she was happy to be told their case was being reviewed but was yet to receive any confirmation their grant had been approved.

“We’re hopeful but we’re certainly not holding our breath given the way that we’ve been treated through the whole process,” she said.

Erica Newman, who shared her story with nine.com.au this week, said she was delighted to hear news of the review and would be waiting to hear from the Queensland Revenue office about their case.

Newman bought a newly built home with her partner Josh in Ipswich, in March 2021.

The couple, who have a one-year-old son and are set to get married next week, said missing out on the grant had left a huge hole in their family budget.

“If we are paid this grant it will be such a relief to our family,” she said, adding it would be “the best wedding present”. 

“I just hope any future grant recipients don’t have to fight this hard to get what they are entitled to.”

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]


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