Labor Shadow Minister ‘worried’ about what happens after JobKeeper expires

Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare spoke in Sydney not too long ago. He was addressing reports about the jump in the number of HomeBuilder applications, mortgage freezes and the end of other financial payments implemented by the Federal Government to stave off the worst economic impacts of the pandemic.

On the expiration of JobKeeper, boosted JobSeeker and HomeBuilder grants at the end of March.

“I’m really worried about what happens after March. If the banks show the same sort of common sense they did last year and help people who don’t have a job to keep their head above water, that’s a good thing. A lot of people don’t own a home, a lot of people rent. People still had to keep paying the rent. Some good things happened last year. I called for a freeze on evictions and that happened. The states implemented schemes so you couldn’t evict people at the height of the pandemic. But there are also schemes that were set up to help people reduce the amount of rent they had to pay. There were incentives that state governments set up that were supposed to encourage landlords to cut the rent. They didn’t work. They were in large part a failure. These schemes were intended to get landlords to cut the rent and in return, give them a cut in their land tax or in their rates. Most of the schemes didn’t work. Your question is what happens after March, I’m really worried when JobKeeper ends and JobSeeker goes back to $40 a day, a lot of people will struggle to pay the rent. And state governments set up schemes with big buckets of money to encourage landlords and help tenants to pay the rent by providing them with financial support. A lot of that money is still there. And so, can I use this opportunity again to urge the state governments to look at those schemes, make them easier to access, because I think a lot of people after March are going to need a little bit of help to keep paying the rent.”

On HomeBuilder uptake:

“That’s good. That will hopefully mean that we’ll see tradies who work in building homes for other Aussies get their jobs back. But a word of warning here – my office is already getting calls from me who applied for the $25,000, signed a contract for a new home, and are now being told by their builder they may not get the money. And the reason for that is the builder is saying they can’t comply with the rules the government has set up. In particular, that the builder has to start building the house within six months of signing the contract. Now, if people sign up for the scheme, apply for the $25,000 and then miss out for no fault of their own, then I think that’s unfair. I urge the Prime Minister and the government to apply a bit of common sense here and work with the state governments who are involved in the scheme and make sure that people don’t miss out. Because there’s people that are talking to my office already that feel like the $25,000 they applied for was part of what they were going to use to pay for the loan, and now they’re going to lose that and miss out and it’s just going to be harder to pay that loan back.”

On the end of mortgage freezes:

“The work that banks and building societies did last year in freezing mortgages for people who lost their jobs, freezing mortgages for people who thought they couldn’t repay it in the middle of a pandemic, was really important. They were hundreds of thousands of Aussies who froze their mortgages so they could keep their head above water, that was really important to making sure that lots of people didn’t lose their home, lots of people didn’t have to sell their home because they didn’t have the money to pay the bills, pay the mortgage. It’s arguable that policy that that banks and the building societies implemented help to stop a big drop in property prices in Sydney and right around the country. So I thank the banks for the work they did. I thank the building societies for the work they did in that mortgage freeze and I just urge banks and building societies to show the same understanding and the same common sense this year that they provided last year, and even though the freeze, the automatic freeze, is ending next month, please make sure that you look after people that are still struggling. There’s almost a million Aussies who still don’t have a job, almost a million still unemployed, a lot of them have mortgages. We want to make sure people through no fault of their own, but because of a pandemic, don’t have to sell their house. Now I know the banks are doing some good work here. In setting up schemes to provide extra help for people suffering hardship. And I just urge them to keep doing that work.”

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