A Labor MP who lost her own home in a bushfire says people rebuilding after Black Summer should receive an extension to apply for the Morrison government's HomeBuilder scheme.
Under the $688 million scheme, buyers of new properties can apply for a $25,000 grant if the house and land value is less than $750,000. People undertaking renovations worth at least $150,000 can also qualify.
However prospective applicants have to sign a contract between June 4, 2020 and the end of the year, with construction or renovation starting within three months of the contract date, to receive the grant.
The scheme is intended to be a lifeline to the construction industry, which is expecting a significant downturn due to the coronavirus.
Labor's Susan Templeman, whose electorate of Macquarie in the Blue Mountains was heavily impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires fires, said it was unlikely people who'd lost their homes would be in a position to take advantage of the grants by the end of the year.
She speaks from firsthand experience. Ms Templeman lost her own home in the 2013 fires in the Blue Mountains and said it took her five years before she was in a position to rebuild.
"I'm concerned people will feel pressure to make fast decisions [because of this deadline]," Ms Templeman said.
"What I'd like to see is special consideration given to bushfire victims.
"People have told me that they want to rebuild, but it's unlikely they'll be able to sign a contract by the end of the year."
I don't think you can ask people to make snap decisions. You need to give them time to grieve their loss, imagine a different future and put that future into practical reality.Susan Templeman MP
Ms Templeman said she knew of people who also lost their homes in 2013 who'd felt pressured to make quick decisions when rebuilding and later regretted it.
She said a $25,000 grant would make a world of difference for bushfire survivors, especially as it was more expensive to rebuild to current standards and properties were often under-insured.
"I know $25,000 on our build would have made quite a bit of difference," Ms Templeman said.
However Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared to dismiss her call for the extension during Question Time on Friday, saying states and territories were working to fast-track applications.
"I'll be working closely with the states and territories to ensure that they can accelerate the rate of a home approval, not just in these [bushfire-affected] areas but everywhere, because this is critical to job creation," Mr Morrison said.
"It's absolutely urgent for those who are impacted by the bushfires. Certainly, definitely, but it is also critically important for those for whom their jobs depend on getting the jobs started.
"There is no greater focus this government had than on job creation in the wake of the COVID circumstances and indeed in the wake of the bushfire crisis. Rebuilding communities, rebuilding homes and jobs and rebuilding our economy."
However Ms Templeman said people should not be pressured into rushing a decision because they wanted additional funding.
"They should be given an extension to make this huge decision.Not only are they having to start from the beginning, they're doing it completely unexpectedly," Ms Templeman said.
"I lived in my house for 23 years. I'd thought about renos but I'd never thought what I'd do if my house burnt down. You're starting from this deeply traumatic place because of the loss.
"I don't think you can ask people to make snap decisions. You need to give them time to grieve their loss, imagine a different future and put that future into practical reality."