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How satellite images are being used to ruin home ownership dreams of hundreds of Aussie battlers

Air hostess and single mum Jenna Leigh Cross, 31, was left ‘shocked and disappointed’ at her rejection for a HomeBuilder’s grant – and embarrassed because she personally thanked Josh Frydenberg for the grant on a flight

A young Australian mum is reeling after being denied a $25,000 government grant to buy her first home by a cruel technicality – and she’s far from alone in having her dreams ruined. 

Jenna Leigh Cross, a 31-year-old flight attendant, is ‘shocked and disappointed’ after being refused the HomeBuilder grant she was planning to put toward building a $400,000 house in Cairns. 

The rules say no grants can be paid to an applicant if they built on their block before June 4, 2020. 

Even though Ms Cross signed for the house and land package in October 2020, and the slab for her home was only laid in January 2021, Queensland authorities rejected her, citing aerial photos of work before June 2020.

That was four months before she even owned it.

A frustrated Ms Cross, who hasn’t been shown the satellite photos, says they can only show work done prior to sale by the developer.

It cleared and subdivided the land which was previously cane fields, to make it ready for sale.

The Queensland government also rejected at least three of Ms Cross’s neighbours on a new Mount Peter estate in Edmonton, Cairns. 

Ms Cross and her neighbours are far from alone in being turned down for the home grants over building work that had nothing to do with them.

It is understood hundreds of people have been knocked back for the $25,000 and $15,000 HomeBuilder grants by Queensland treasury staff claiming construction had commenced on blocks before the June 4, 2020 eligibility start date.

Ms Cross with her son on the Cairns block she bought in December 2020. Queensland Treasury rejected her application for the HomeBuilder grant because it said construction had commenced on the site before June 4, 2020

Ms Cross with her son on the Cairns block she bought in December 2020. Queensland Treasury rejected her application for the HomeBuilder grant because it said construction had commenced on the site before June 4, 2020

Hundreds of Australians who battled to buy their first home expecting government grants to get them over the line have been denied by a cruel technicality (pictured, the Cairns home Jenna Cross built - although promised government help was denied)

Hundreds of Australians who battled to buy their first home expecting government grants to get them over the line have been denied by a cruel technicality (pictured, the Cairns home Jenna Cross built – although promised government help was denied)

Their evidence is also understood to be satellite images of applicants’ blocks – in almost all cases, showing land-clearing and sub division work prior to sale.

None of the satellite images cited by Daily Mail Australia show construction in progress on blocks. 

Ms Cross is adamant she met the criteria to receive the Federal government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder grant. Her developer agreed and wrote a letter supporting her claim.

But her appeal was rejected with the government claiming ‘excavation and site preparation works on the site on which the new home is located commenced prior to 4 June 2020’.

‘I’m shocked and disappointed,’ Ms Cross told Daily Mail Australia.

‘My neighbours had their grants approved and we’re all on the same land, registered at the same time.

‘They said they had evidence from satellite photos but they’ve never sent me the evidence…I can’t get my head around it.’

She went ahead and built a $400,000 four-bedroom house on the block but has had to make several sacrifices. 

Ms Cross bought a block on the Mount Peter Estate in Edmonton, south of Cairns, in October 2020 from a developer. But the Queensland government used aerial photos showing the developer sub-divided the land to reject her claim for a $25,000 grant

Ms Cross bought a block on the Mount Peter Estate in Edmonton, south of Cairns, in October 2020 from a developer. But the Queensland government used aerial photos showing the developer sub-divided the land to reject her claim for a $25,000 grant 

The state government rejected grant applications for several people who bought blocks on Ms Cross's street -  Mount Peter Estate in Moorinya Circuit, Edmonton, south of Cairns - because it said construction had commenced before June 4, 2020. This photo was taken on September 1, 2020

The state government rejected grant applications for several people who bought blocks on Ms Cross’s street –  Mount Peter Estate in Moorinya Circuit, Edmonton, south of Cairns – because it said construction had commenced before June 4, 2020. This photo was taken on September 1, 2020

Ms Cross had to cancel an overseas holiday for her and her son Jailen, 11, and shelved plans to upgrade her car because the grant was denied. 

She also cancelled the installation of solar panels on her new home.

She feels embarrassed that she ‘personally thanked the treasurer Josh Frydenberg for the grant on one of my flights’. 

‘This grant would have helped me so much. Obviously that was before I was rejected.’ 

Ms Cross said she'd had to make sacrifices after being knocked back for the HomeBuilder grant

Ms Cross said she’d had to make sacrifices after being knocked back for the HomeBuilder grant

Richardson Plant wrote a letter of support stating it had only prepared the ground subdivision as required by law. It didn’t start building Ms Cross’s home until August 28, 2020.

Another woman, disability support worker Melissa Bloomfield, had her grant rejected after she worked extra shifts and spent a year couch-surfing in order to raise a deposit.

She bought a unit off the plan in Redlands, south of Brisbane.

The Queensland government claimed a satellite image showed the site where her home was built showed construction was underway before June 4, 2020. 

But the image simply showed a cleared patch of land after the house on it previously had been demolished.

Melissa Bloomfield applied for a HomeBuilder grant to build a home on this Redlands block, near Brisbane, but her application was rejected because the Queensland government decided construction had begun before the cut-off date for eligibility

Melissa Bloomfield applied for a HomeBuilder grant to build a home on this Redlands block, near Brisbane, but her application was rejected because the Queensland government decided construction had begun before the cut-off date for eligibility

‘When I first read the letter I was thinking ‘surely not’. I couldn’t believe it,’ Ms Bloomfield told 9News.

‘I was very, very taken aback because I was just waiting for the grant to come through. I thought there was no way it would be rejected.’

Gold Coast single dad Clint Calman, who set up a Facebook page for rejected HomeBuilder applicants, claims Queensland is the only state using satellite photos to reject applications.

‘I’m dirty about this, they’re just getting it wrong,’ Mr Calman told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘You go to purchase a home-bare block of land if you want to build, the previous people subdivided and cleared the land – that has nothing to do with your purchase. 

‘But someone in a government department seems to be making the decision that this is enough to reject the grant.

‘I’m seeing on other Homebuilder grant pages around Australia and they’re approving the applications in a few weeks. The team we’re dealing with here are the only state doing this.

‘I’m frustrated that we have to go through this garbage when we know we qualify.’

He applied for the grant when building his first home, a Southport townhouse, and was rejected. 

Mr Calman has an appeal before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal over his case.

A satellite photo of a vacant Hervey Bay block that Queensland Treasury used to justify rejecting an application for a housing grant on the basis that building had commenced

A satellite photo of a vacant Hervey Bay block that Queensland Treasury used to justify rejecting an application for a housing grant on the basis that building had commenced

Another satellite photo showing what looks like a vacant block that Queensland Treasury claimed shows construction activity. Angry grant applicants say their blocks were not being built on but had just been cleared by developers or previous owners

Another satellite photo showing what looks like a vacant block that Queensland Treasury claimed shows construction activity. Angry grant applicants say their blocks were not being built on but had just been cleared by developers or previous owners

While 85 people have joined the page he said there are probably hundreds more in the same position. 

‘I know of a lot more and I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know about. Just in my block of 30 townhouses there’s 13 people who were knocked back.’

He claimed dozens of families have been caught out after taking short-term loans or borrowing money from family to get their deposit together.

‘I don’t understand what the Queensland state government has got to gain from knocking back a federal grant anyway?’ Mr Calman said.

‘Is it one person in the office deciding on their own to try and save the federal government some money?’

Mr Calman said he’d contacted federal housing minister Michael Sukkar and had no reply.

A spokesman for Queensland Revenue Office said the organisation ‘uses the best information available in assessing grant applications.

‘As new information becomes available, QRO will use this to confirm an applicant’s eligibility.’

He added that ‘where an application is found to have incomplete or inaccurate information’, QRO will ensure the process is ‘fair’ for applicants.

The federal Treasury spokeswoman responded that the department did not comment on policy during the caretaker period before the election.

She also added: ‘The States and Territories are responsible for making the necessary arrangements to administer HomeBuilder.’ 

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