Housing consents hit all-time low

Quelle surprise, says Registered Master Builders Federation

Housing consents have hit an all-time low, according to Statistics New Zealand, with quake-struck Canterbury the worst hit of any region.

The trend for the number of new dwellings authorised has fallen steadily since April 2010.

It’s now hit the lowest level since the record began in 1982.

The seasonally adjusted number of new dwellings authorised rose 2.2% in March, following a 9.8% fall in February and other large changes in recent months.

40 new apartment units and 1,047 other dwellings were authorised in March 2011.

12 out of 16 regions experienced a fall in housing consents year on year for March 2011-2010.

Just 166 new homes were authorised in Canterbury in March this year – half the number authorised the same month the year before.

The decrease in Canterbury represents the largest fall of any region.

Waikato fell from 205 units to 127, while Otago fell from 100 units to 59.

Canterbury had 20 earthquake-related consents with a combined value of $11 million.

Analysis from JP Morgan said the downtrend would continue near-term post-earthquake, given the slow rate at which insurance claims are being processed.

“Indeed, earthquake-related rebuilding cannot get underway until claims have been processed by insurers, and this process has been delayed by a lack of information on land remediation, which aims to prevent lateral spreading of any future quakes.”

The unadjusted value of residential building consents fell 20% ($108 million) year-on-year and non-residential building consents fell $1 million (0.2 percent).

Meanwhile, the declines are no surprise, according to the Registered Master Builders Federation (RMBF), and only reaffirm what the sector has been going through over the past year.

Chief executive Warwick Quinn: “The construction sector is well into its third year of recession and the contraction is picked to continue for most of the year.

“This will result in the continuing loss of capability at the very time it needs to be retained given what New Zealand is facing over the next few years."

The Canterbury rebuild, Auckland’s housing shortage and the leaky home repairs are known work streams.

Mr Quinn said the economy will eventually recover to a point where there is a general increase in construction activity.

“It is imperative the construction sector does not contract further as the industry will struggle to cope when the market eventually responds.

“We hope the latest March figures are an indication that the market is stabilising as we simply cannot afford to lose any more skilled trades people at a time when we need them the most.”

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