Home building reaches a new high in Australia

Taylor Scott International News

This year has seen a record number of new homes being built in Australia, according to the latest outlook report from the Housing Industry Association. However, the growth in new residential construction has been slower to gather momentum and breadth in terms of both geographical location and dwelling type, it says. According to HIA chief economist, Dr Harley Dale, this means that the ‘look and feel’ of this building cycle is different to historical experience. ‘In aggregate, we will commence nearly 190,000 new dwellings in 2014, surpassing the previous record of 187,000 back in 1994,’ said Dale. ‘The momentum culminating in this milestone has provided a substantial boost to Australia’s economy at a crucial juncture in the cycle. Below trend economic growth and weak labour market outcomes would be considerably worse without the reach a new home building recovery is exerting into the broader economy,’ he explained. He pointed out that against this backdrop the HIA believes it is unfortunate that policy makers have failed to grasp the reform initiative required to compliment record low borrowing costs and send new home building levels higher still in 2015 and 2016. ‘Australia’s economic growth and labour market performance will be weaker than otherwise as a consequence of this lack of policy action. Record low borrowing costs have combined with other factors such as high net overseas migration to unleash substantial pent-up demand for new housing,’ said Dale. ‘These factors will keep the level of new homes commenced at historically elevated levels. However, what the economy needs is further growth in new home building over the next couple of years, but that will only occur as a consequence of taxation and regulatory reform,’ he pointed out. ‘It is still an impressive achievement to build a record number of new homes, at a level that approaches what the average build rate will have to be if we are to adequately house our growing and ageing population in coming decades,’ he said. He explained that renovations investment has not joined the new housing ride this cycle, increasing by only 0.3% in 2013/2014 from a decade low. ‘Unemployment concerns, a lack of available credit, and an elevated household savings rate are but three elements in the current environment which mean there has not been room for a renovations recovery alongside new home building activity and existing property price growth,’ said Dale. But he pointed out that that situation looks to be slowly changing as growth of 0.9% in renovations investment in 2014/2015 is forecast to accelerate to 2% growth in the subsequent three years. ‘That would be a great outcome, but it is a long road back for this important sector of Australia’s domestic economy,’ Dale concluded. Taylor Scott International

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