Subject to the exemptions described below, where Housing Australia funds building work, or provides funding that facilitates the carrying out of building work under the Housing Australia Future Fund Facility (HAFFF) and the National Housing Accord Facility (NHAF), the WHS Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme) will usually apply. This means that the head contractor builder will need to be accredited before Housing Australia can fund the building work.  

There are some exemptions from the Scheme. These relate to low-value building work, the construction of single-dwelling houses and building work undertaken by a joint venture. Additionally, where Housing Australia funding is provided for the purchase of completed dwellings, or making completed dwellings available (in a manner that does not assist the construction of those dwellings see exemptions below for general guidance), this would generally not constitute funding building work, in which case the scheme would not apply.  

If your project is covered by any of the exemptions* below, there is no requirement for an accredited head contractor builder to be engaged to undertake the building work. 

*please note that the term ‘exemption’ is used generally to refer both to circumstances that are explicitly exempted from the Scheme under the Federal Safety Commissioner (Accreditation Scheme) Rules 2023 and circumstances that are not covered under the Scheme.

EXEMPTION 1 – Building work valued at below the Scheme funding thresholds

The way Housing Australia funds building work affects the dollar value for building work which triggers the application of the Scheme. 

If Housing Australia provides funding for building work through a funding agreement or grant to a funding recipient who either undertakes the building work themselves, engages a head contractor builder to carry out that building work, or engages a project manager or developer who then  engages a builder(s) to undertake the building work, this will generally be considered an indirect funding arrangement. The Scheme applies to projects that are indirectly funded where: 

  • a contract for building work that forms part of the project has a value of at least $4 million (GST inclusive) AND EITHER: 

    - the value of Housing Australia's contribution to the funding of the project is at least $6 million (GST inclusive) AND represents at least 50 percent of the total funding; OR 
     - the value of Housing Australia's contribution to the funding of the project is at least $10 million (including GST), irrespective of the proportion of Housing Australia funding contribution to the total value of the project. 

For further information refer to the Fact Sheet – Applying the Scheme to indirectly funded building work.

The Scheme applies to both direct and indirect funding of building work. 

EXAMPLE – Indirect funding arrangement where the Scheme does not apply

  • Housing Australia provides $7 million in funding to a community housing provider to part-fund a social housing project. The community housing provided engages Terra Constructions to undertake the building work which has a contract value of $11 million.  The total value of the funding required for the project is $18 million.  
  • Terra Constructions does not require accreditation to undertake this building work. Even though the building contract value exceeds $4 million and Housing Australia’s $7 million funding contribution is more than the $6 million threshold, its contribution is not 50% or more of the total funding. 

EXAMPLE – Indirect funding arrangement where the Scheme does apply 

  • Housing Australia provides $18 million in funding to a State Government owned entity to part fund the building work on a high rise social housing development valued at $80 million. The State Government owned entity engages High Rise Homes as head contractor builder to construct the development and the contract value exceeds $4 million.  
  • The project is captured under the Scheme as Housing Australia’s contribution to the project is more than $10 million. Because the contribution is more than $10 million, the total value of the project is not relevant. 
  • High Rise Homes is required to be accredited under the Scheme to undertake the building work. 

EXEMPTION 2 – Single dwelling houses

Where the project is for the construction, repair or restoration of a single-dwelling house or houses, the head contractor builder is not required to be accredited under the Scheme to obtain Commonwealth funding.  

A single-dwelling house is defined as any Class 1a building under the National Construction Code (NCC). This generally includes detached stand-alone houses or one of a group of attached dwellings such as duplexes, terrace houses, row houses and town houses. Residential developments that involve dwellings that are above and below each other will not be considered to be single-dwelling houses (e.g. apartments). Where attached dwellings have a common space below (such as a common garage or common basement), the building will be regarded as a Class 2 building and therefore will not fall under the single-dwelling house exemption. 

Only Class 1a buildings are single-dwellings exempted from the application of the Scheme.  

More information on the definition of a Class 1a building can be found in Chapter A6, Building Classification - NCC 2022 Volume Two - Building Code of Australia Class 1 and 10 buildings

There is no limit to the number of single-dwelling houses on which building work is occurring for this exemption to apply. However, if a project includes Class 1a building as well as other building classes, it will be covered by the Scheme unless another exemption applies.

EXAMPLE - Single-dwelling exemption

  • Housing Australia provides $18 million in funding to a community housing provider for the construction of an affordable housing project. The project is exclusively for the building of detached houses, with no dwellings being built above any other dwellings. 
  • The community housing provided engages Terra Constructions as the head contractor builder for the project. 
  • While the funding for the project is above the funding thresholds, because the project is exclusively for single-dwelling houses, Terra Constructions does not require accreditation under the Scheme to undertake the building work. 

EXEMPTION 3 –  Joint venture arrangements

Where a building project is being undertaken by a joint venture between an accredited and non-accredited builder(s), the Scheme does not require the non-accredited builder(s) to become accredited. For this exemption to apply, the following requirements must be met: 

  • The accredited builder must take full responsibility under the Scheme for workplace safety for the life of the project*.
  • All building work on the project must be undertaken in accordance with the accredited builder’s workplace health and safety management system for the life of the project. 
  • The unaccredited builder(s) must carry out building work in accordance with the accredited builder’s workplace health and safety systems for the life of the project. 
  • The unaccredited builder will participate fully in any audit of the accredited builder’s work health and safety management system and the way in which it is implemented onsite. 
  • All builders must provide the Federal Safety Commissioner with suitable written undertakings for the above requirements before entering into contracts for the building work. 

*This does not alter Work Health and Safety duties under State or Territory WHS laws that may be owed by the accredited builder or any other persons working on the project. 

More information on Joint Ventures refer to:

EXEMPTION 4 – No Scheme coverage where funding does not assist building work to proceed

The Scheme only applies to head contractor builders engaged to carry out building work funded by the Australian Government. If your project does not involve any building work whether by you or a third party, there is no requirement that an accredited builder be used. 

  • Housing Australia may also contribute funding towards a project involving building work in several ways. Whether the Scheme applies to head contractor builders on these projects will generally depend on whether the funding assists or facilitates building work to proceed in some way. However, this will require examination of the circumstances of each project.

A few different funding and financing scenarios are considered further below.

  • Housing Australia may enter into an agreement to provide a construction loan with a borrower.  In this scenario, it is likely the Scheme will apply to the extent the Housing Australia loan finances the building work to be carried out. In this case, an accredited builder is most likely required unless one of the exemptions described above applies. 
  • Housing Australia may provide a conditional commitment for (and then later provides after construction completion) an acquisition financing loan to a borrower for the purposes of enabling a borrower to acquire a turnkey dwelling (or dwellings) on its or their completion. In this scenario, the application of the Scheme will depend on whether Housing Australia’s funding facilitates the carrying out of building work forming part of the project. The Scheme will apply on a case-by-case basis so please call the OFSC for more information.
  • Housing Australia may provide availability payments to a funding applicant only to fund the operating cost of making dwellings available as social and affordable housing. In this scenario, the Scheme will generally not apply because the purpose of the funding does not usually assist the building work to proceed. However, if Housing Australia’s funding does facilitate the carrying out of building work in some way, the Scheme will apply. To determine this,  please call the OFSC for more information.
  • Please contact the OFSC for more information in these cases. 

Example - where funding does NOT assist building work to proceed: 

  • Housing Australia commits to funding the spot purchase of completed dwellings after they have been constructed. As the funding is only for the purchase of completed dwellings, Housing Australia is not funding the building work, nor assisting it to proceed. There is no requirement that the builder be accredited.  
  • The funding applicant owns the land and has already commenced construction of a block of apartments. It has applied to Housing Australia for funding in the form of availability payments only.  Housing Australia commits to provide availability payments to the applicant for the purpose of funding the (post construction) operating costs of making dwellings available for social and affordable housing. As construction has commenced and has been financed independently of any Housing Australia funds,  Housing Australia is not funding the building work, nor assisting it to proceed. There is no requirement that the builder be accredited.   

Further Assistance

To speak to an OFSC representative please call the OFSC Assist Line 1800 652 500, or email ofsc@dewr.gov.au.