Building approval rebound likely to be "short-lived"?

By Gerv Tacadena | 01 Nov 2019

The number of dwelling approvals in Australia recovered from a slump in August, reporting a 7.6% increase in September in seasonally-adjusted terms, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

ABS figures show that the growth was due to the substantial turnaround in apartment approvals, which registered a 16.6% growth. Approvals for detached homes, on the other hand, grew by 2.8%.

In regional terms, Queensland posted the biggest gain, recording a 20% growth in approvals. Dwelling approvals in Victoria grew at a modest 2%, while those in New South Wales declined at the same rate.

"The monthly lift in dwelling approvals is expected to be short-lived, with the trend still downwards," said Tim Hibbert, principal economist at BIS Oxford Economics.

Also read: Slump in new home sales now over?

In fact, total approvals remain 21.1% lower than the same time last year, with apartment approvals declining by 44% in the 2018-2019 financial year, the lowest since 2012-2013.

"Rate cuts combined with eased mortgage serviceability guidelines have opened up access to credit, helping the established residential market regain its footing over recent months. However, it is not until June quarter next year that these measures are expected to drive sustained growth in dwelling approvals," Hibbert said.

Building approvals would likely experience a lag that could extend by as much as 18 months. This could mean that it would be premature to confirm if the market has already passed the bottom of the cycle, said Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon.

"But this result is another indication that the market is stabilising," he said.

Also read: Melbourne to witness apartment supply crunch?

In trend terms, the number of dwellings approved fell 0.8% in September, clocking its 22nd consecutive month of decline.

"The fall in trend dwelling approvals for September was the smallest monthly decline in six months," said Daniel Rossi, director of construction statistics at the ABS.

Only Tasmania and South Australia recorded growth in building approvals in trend terms, up by  1.6% and 0.4%, respectively.

On the other hand, the Northern Territory reported the most substantial drop at 9.3%.

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