Queensland building approvals down as construction times blow out

14 November 2023

The latest dwelling approvals show new home construction is falling well short of the homes needed to meet Queensland’s housing needs.

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for September record a 12-month total of only 34,060 new dwellings approved. This represents an 8 per cent drop and is well short of the 48,000 homes needed each year to meet Queensland’s share of the national five-year target of 1.2 million homes.

This is exacerbated by the time taken to complete construction. According to ABS data, during 2022/23 the average time taken from commencement to completion has blown out for new houses, townhouses, and apartments.

The average time from commencement to completion for new apartments in Queensland has increased by six months to 26 months, while the average time from commencement to completion for new houses increased by one month to eight months.

Master Builders CEO, Paul Bidwell says it’s a tall order for the industry to deliver the housing targets and meet the needs of the massive construction program underway in Queensland while they continue to deal with delays and cost hikes.

“Back in 2016 we built 50,000 new homes in a year– so, it can be done. But looking to the future, the current pipeline of new housing is just 34,000 dwellings approved in the 12 months to September 2023. This is well short of where we need to be,” he said.

Mr Bidwell said while Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay have recorded growth in dwelling approvals over the past three months, all regions in Queensland have reported negative growth over the past 12 months.

There is some good news in the September numbers with a big spike in unit approvals over the month. Much of this can be attributed to tax concessions targeting projects stuck in the pipeline, such as Brisbane City Council’s decision to reduce infrastructure charges for certain unit developments.

The strong September result means the Greater Brisbane dwelling approvals are trending up by 16 per cent over the past three months.

Strong approvals for new detached houses are also helping the Sunshine Coast buck the downward trend by increasing 12 per cent over the same period. Wide Bay is the only other region to post a positive trend over the three months, with detached houses and units up by 4 per cent.

Non-residential approvals are another story, surging ahead to reach an unprecedented high of $19.3 billion, as the government’s massive capital works program gets underway.

“It’s housing that is languishing, while non-residential is keeping the industry buoyant with the massive government capital works program. This aligns with what we are hearing from our members that government and private sector commercial building is strong,” Mr Bidwell said.

”The Queensland Government needs to work collaboratively with industry to ensure costs don’t rise further unnecessarily.

“We’ll be looking for support from the government in Queensland’s 2024 budget, with initiatives like stamp duty relief for new builds, payroll tax relief for builders and grants to enable building businesses to implement business improvement software and homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes.

“Developers and government clients also need to adjust risk allocations and procurement strategies to meet the market.

“It is essential we keep building homes or the housing crisis will worsen. To do this we need to ensure new home construction costs are kept in check and ensure the industry isn’t held back by unnecessary red tape and inefficiency,” he said.

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