First-time home buyers reap $2.1b

Almost 240,000 Australians have received the $7,000 first homebuyer's grant, at a cost of around $1.7 billion, and an additional 31,764 have received $14,000, costing the government $445 million, figures released yesterday reveal. The grant, originally meant to end on December 31, 2001, has been extended to July 1 this year, albeit at a reduced rate of $10,000.

Victorian Treasurer, John Brumby, says that the grant should be extended beyond this date but that people buying houses for more than $500,000 should be screened out. He claims that the Howard government has given taxpayers' money to some of the country's richest people to buy million-dollar homes.

Meanwhile, the Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, has conceded that the housing market is losing steam, after providing a huge boost to the economy last year. A report by Access Economics, to be released today, states that the first signs of a slowdown are already visible in the current rising rental vacancy rates. The report predicts that the housing market may “well be a drag on overall economic growth” by late 2002.