No future for NRAS as fifth round is scrapped in 2014 budget

No future for NRAS as fifth round is scrapped in 2014 budget
No future for NRAS as fifth round is scrapped in 2014 budget

News that the Abbott government will abandon the fifth tranche of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) has brought mixed reactions from the housing industry.

The scheme provides tax free incentives to developers and investors providing approved housing to the rental market at 20% below market value. According to the government, there are no current funds allocated for any future rounds of NRAS, with all money that was allocated to the fifth round returned to the budget and redistributed elsewhere. The 2014 budget papers suggest scrapping the scheme will result in savings of $235 million over three years, and will reportedly could contribute $1 billion to revenue savings over the program's life.

Developers who have already received NRAS approval for their projects will continue to receive payments for up to ten years so long as their eligibility requirements are met and their constructions proceed according to the pre-arranged timelines.

However, the Department of Social Services will be withdrawing financial support for projects where “insufficient progress” has been made in the dwellings’ construction. Investors are still able to invest in NRAS properties, as some 18,000 dwellings are still to be delivered. This yet to be completed apartment in Sydney’s Harris Park is currently advertised by Onyx (pictured below), a property investment advice company that markets NRAS approved dwellings.

No future for NRAS as fifth round is scrapped in 2014 budget

Investors who own completed NRAS approved properties will this year receive $10,661 from the government. All applications for NRAS’s fifth round of approvals, which closed in August last year, have been abandoned and will not be approved.

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has described the abandonment the final round of the National Rental Affordability Scheme as disappointing.

"The scheme has resulted in thousands of affordable homes for low and moderate income households, increased Australia’s housing stock and generated countless jobs the process,” said Graham Wolfe, the HIA chief executive.

Prior to the budget announcements, HIA's chief economist Harley Dale told the Financial Review that the scheme had delivered affordable housing for thousands of Australians. “It’s been a good scheme that has helped boost low-cost rental accommodation, and we would like to see it continue,” he said.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) described the move as a “major disappointment.”

“Since its establishment in 2008, NRAS has delivered 14,575 new homes for low and moderate income households, and was on track to provide 23,884 more,” said UDIA’s national president Cameron Shephard.

However, the Real Estate Institute of Australia has welcomed the Abbott lead government’s decision, with president Peter Bushby calling the action “one REIA supports”. 

In February, SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher told Property Observer while the scheme needed to be adjusted to keep out "dodgy developers" and improve transparency, "the NRAS is a good idea, and we’re supporters of it."

The NRAS was launched by the Labor government in 2008 as a partnership between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.

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