Homeowners at risk of flooding could receive $20,000 to help raise their houses under a $7.8bn plan released by the Greens which has been welcomed by some in the building and insurance industries.
The Greens candidate for Ryan, Elizabeth Watson-Brown, made the announcement on Wednesday alongside Senator Larissa Waters in the flood-affected seat in Brisbane’s north-west. The minor party is hopeful it could take Ryan from the Liberal National party this weekend.
The Greens are also bullish about their chances in the neighbouring riverside seats of Brisbane and Griffith.
Watson-Brown said the Greens had undertaken the largest door-knocking campaign in the party’s history over the past year in Griffith and its second-largest in Ryan. It wanted to hear “what people are actually concerned about”, she said.
Even before February’s floods, Watson-Brown said the climate crisis was “absolutely front of mind” for voters in her leafy electorate.
“People have been devastated again this year by flooding, and that is going to happen more and more often into the future with climate change,” she said. “It is serious, it is here and it’s in lots of people’s back yards.”
The Greens say independent Parliamentary Budget Office costing of the house-raising plan assumes 48,000 homeowners would take up the grant each year for 10 years.
Homeowners would be required to match the grant from their own pockets, meaning the party does not expect all would apply for the full $20,000.
Watson-Brown, a practising architect, was a first-year student at the University of Queensland during the 1974 floods.
“One of our first projects was to go around and look at flood damage right across Brisbane,” she said. “Part of my politicisation was witnessing the personal devastation that occurs with these floods.”
So how much will it cost homeowners to lift their houses?
Brisbane House Raising and Restumping’s Luke Macdonald said it was a question he was asked “about 500 times a year”.
Macdonald said his phone had been running hot from people in Lismore and Murwillumbah seeking quotes, but he is only licensed to operate in Queensland.
His small business raises houses and puts in the support beams and posts to hold them in place.
He says an average quote is about $30,000, although prices vary widely depending on factors like house size and topography.
Macdonald said he had recently quoted $50,000 to raise and restump a 90 sq metre Queenslander. “But we also absolutely quote homes for less than $20,000, if they are small houses and the engineering is simple,” he said.
Homeowners also require engineering reports and design plans, documents which could collectively amount to about $10,000.
Once their house is lifted, most owners opt for a concrete slab underneath. They also require water and electricity to be reconnected and stairs rebuilt, all of which could cost tens of thousands of dollars more.
Another Brisbane house raising company puts the average cost of the whole process, from planning to reconnecting services, at between $80,000 and $120,000.
Still, Macdonald said policies like that announced by the Greens could be enough to “inspire” those who were already considering raising their homes to take the next step.
“If someone gives you $20,000, that’d be a pretty good incentive,” he said. “It’d be nice if they did it.”
The Insurance Council of Australia said it welcomed policies that “increase community resilience to worsening extreme weather events, including investing in better protecting homes against flood”.
A council spokesperson said it was calling on the next federal government to invest $413m to better protect homes against flood by “raising utilities and services above the expected flood line”.