The West Australian Government has announced a relief package of $154 million to support tenants, landlords and the construction industry impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
- Tenants can apply for up to $2,000 in rental relief paid to their landlord
- Commercial landlords can access $100 million worth of land tax reductions
- The moves follow a six-month freeze on rent increases
The package includes $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 to directly help residential tenants pay their rent if they are suffering hardship.
“This assistance will help to keep tenants going,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
“Helping eligible tenants continue to pay rent will reduce the risk of exposing landlords to financial hardship and meeting their mortgage obligations.”
Mr McGowan said under the scheme payments would be delivered directly to the tenant’s landlord.
“Today’s package complements the introduction of a six-month freeze on rent increases and a moratorium on evictions from March 30,” he said.
The grants will be available for tenants or sub-tenants who have lost their job, applied to Centrelink for income support, or have less than $10,000 in savings and are paying at least 25 per cent of their rent.
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said there was a very large number of West Australians who did not have a backlog of savings on which to rely.
“That’s why we’ve effectively fixed the limit,” he said.
“Balance sheets of businesses and households are having an impact regardless of what state and federal governments have done. We are trying to ameliorate that with this particular support.”
The rent relief grants will be administered through the Small Business Development Corporation with applications opening on May 1.
Land tax reduced for commercial landlords
The new package will also provide $100 million in land tax relief grants for commercial landlords.
“To be eligible, commercial landlords must provide rent relief that equates to a minimum of three months’ rent and freeze outgoing to small businesses that have suffered at least a 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to COVID-19,” Mr McGowan said.
“Grants will be equivalent to 25 per cent of the landlord’s land tax bill for 2019–20.”
“This is a targeted scheme to provide help to both tenants and landlords of commercial and residential properties,” Mr McGowan said.
“Ideally, this is about looking after small businesses, looking after vulnerable residential tenants and looking after mum-and-dad investors whose lives have been turned upside down due to COVID-19.
“It’s the right thing to do and it’s consistent with what has occurred, in some ways more generous than what has occurred, in other states.”
The State Government said to qualify for the commercial and residential grants, landlords must agree not to try to recover the rent relief from their tenant once the period ends.
The residential relief grants will be administered through the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety from May 1.
Mr Wyatt said he was looking for “bang for buck” and “things that are actually going to work” when it came to decisions around relief and stimulus spending to manage the crisis.
“We do need to be careful, this isn’t about ensuring we spend money in every nook and cranny of the economy regardless of the impact it may or may not have,” he said.
“It’s about doing what we can to allow businesses and households to hibernate as best they can.
“We do need to keep an eye a little bit forward looking so that we can actually respond to an economy that has been batted and bruised by COVID-19.”
Construction industry to get a boost
Mr McGowan said the package would also support construction industry apprentices, with $24.5 million aimed at assisting the industry to “maintain a skilled workforce during the crisis”.
“This is all about supporting WA small businesses, and supporting our apprentices and trainees,” he said.
“We need our apprentices and trainees to continue to be skilled up for the future.”
Immediate, one-off payments of $2,000 to employers of existing apprentices and trainees currently receiving Construction Training Fund (CTF) grant payments will cost the Government up to $10 million.
Another $9.5 million will be made available for a new monthly payment program for employers of apprentices and trainees.
“These payments will range from $250 per month to $500 per month, per apprentice or trainee, depending on the trades facing the most critical skills shortage in the industry,” Mr McGowan said.
“This will make sure jobs are maintained and our construction workforce is ready to assist with post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
“This is about plumbers, bricklayers, electricians.”
The payments will begin from June 1, backdated to April 1.
Another $5 million has been promised so apprentices can claim up to $1,000 back for short training courses.
Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said apprentices and trainees had felt “the impact of the disruption to the economy”.
“In the construction area alone there has been about a four-fold increase in the number of apprentice and trainee suspensions,” Ms Ellery said.
“That has a serious impact on a young training workforce.”
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