But the state governments responsible for implementing the HomeBuilder online application process say they have been left powerless to help them because of an agreement in place with the Federal Government.
Nine.com.au has been inundated with more than 100 stories of young couples, families and single mothers who claim to have been misled by “confusing” information on the online HomeBuilder portal.
They say they were locked out of their accounts after the April 14 cut-off date to apply.
Meanwhile, a Facebook group created by applicants who claim they missed out on the grant due to technical issues now has more than 550 members.
Kassie Suter’s story is typical of the many applicants nine.com.au spoke to who say they were locked out of their HomeBuilder account after believing they had successfully started their grant application process.
The mother-of-three from Bendigo, Victoria, purchased a block of land in December last year with her husband and the couple signed a contract to build a new home on the site.
Ms Suter then went online with her husband and conveyancer and began the process of applying for the HomeBuilder grant.
The family did not have all the documents about their build yet, but believed in order to apply they needed only to log their details in the system.
However, when Ms Suter went to log back into the system last month to add more documents she was met with a nasty surprise: a message which said she had missed the April 14 cut-off to apply for the grant.
Ms Suter said she then rang Victoria’s State Revenue Office in the hope of getting the problem sorted.
“I was told that I must not have clicked submit or the portal may have timed out before my information was submitted and that nothing could be done now,” she said.
“I was absolutely mortified.
“Our young family had just missed out on $25k that we were eligible for.
“We had already used almost all of our savings to get to this stage of our build so we were counting on that money to replace our savings and to assist with essentials like building a driveway.
“I felt extreme anxiety and guilt come over me as I realised I was the one that had to break this news to my family, after the challenges of owning our own business throughout COVID, and now this, due to no fault of our own.”
Nine.com.au understands that while many applicants did not have all of their construction documents yet before the April 14 cut-off, they were required to press a “submit” button anyway.
But the online portals did not have a bar to map out an applicant’s progress.
Applicants were also required to acknowledge a statement that warned them of the legal consequences of providing misleading information, making them reluctant to add in dates – for example, a construction start time – so they could progress to the next stage of the application.
Victorian single mum Amanda Ryan said she was in exactly the same situation as Ms Suter, but to make the situation more stressful, her home loan had been approved with the $15,000 HomeBuilder grant she was eligible for taken into consideration.
“I am freaking out. I am now having to save that $15,000 in the next 12 months otherwise I’m standing to lose a deposit of $55,000,” Ms Ryan said.
The Federal Treasury department told A Current Affair “genuine applications that can be substantiated and where all criteria are met should be considered valid and approved by the states and territories”.
Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar, said: “In the Commonwealth’s view, genuine applications that can be substantiated and where all criteria are met should be considered valid applications and approved by the states and territories.”
However, both Victoria’s State Revenue Office and Queensland Treasury said the states had “no discretion” to accept late applications under a National Partnership Agreement (NPA) with the Commonwealth.
“All applications were required to be submitted by 14 April 2021,” a spokesperson for Victoria’s State Revenue Office said, adding that regular communications were made to applicants about the cut-off date.
“The State Revenue Office regularly published key dates and requirements related to the grant on the website, the online application portal and via subscriber emails, including information about its extension, reduction in the grant amount from 1 January 2021, and the closing date of 14 April 2021 for all grant applications.”
Federal MP Jason Clare, who is the Shadow Minister for Housing, called on the government to fix the problem.
“The application process was obviously pretty confusing and unclear for a lot of people,” Mr Clare said.
“As a result, a lot of people who applied for HomeBuilder are now up to $25,000 out of pocket.
“It’s not fair for the Morrison Government to blame this on applicants. They need to fix this.”
Earlier this year, the Victorian Government was hit with similar complaints of a confusing online application process for its small business grants, announced during the pandemic.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at email@example.com.