A STAMP duty exemption to encourage the over-65s to downsize to new dwellings has been labelled “an assistance package to builders rather than home owners”. But it has been welcomed as smart policy by property developers and some seniors groups.For the next two years seniors selling their home and buying a newly built dwelling worth up to $600,000 will pay no stamp duty. The measure is designed to remove the disincentive to downsize from the family home to a smaller dwelling.Savings could be worth up to $22,490, but purchasers must live in the new dwelling for at least 12 months to be eligible for the exemption.Developer lobby groups endorsed the initiative, saying it showed the government had listened to the industry on its proposals for tackling the housing supply shortage.Seniors groups welcomed the changes but said it should be extended to cover all housing stock, not only new dwellings.”We understand the rationale behind it, but if the government was serious about encouraging people to downsize they would apply it to all homes,” said Charmaine Crow, from the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW.The president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, David Airey, commended the initiative but said its attractiveness would be limited by the restriction to new dwellings.”In many ways it is an assistance package to builders rather than home buyers generally, but . . . even if it’s a marginal increase in the supply of property, it’s got to have some benefit,” Mr Airey said.Paul Versteege from the National Seniors Association said the $600,000 cut-off was “very reasonable” because it was close to the state’s median house price of $546,000.Kath Brewster, a retiree in the process of selling her family home at Coffs Harbour, also welcomed it. She has lived in the home for 23 years but plans to downsize to a unit in the area.”It’s a very emotional time for older people when they do decide to leave the family home, because of the networks, the community, the social capital they have there,” said Ms Brewster, who is also president of the NSW Council on the Ageing. “We welcome it for those people who are buying into new properties, but it really would have been better had it been available to all buyers over 65.”