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eTradesman.com.au - Australia's Online Tradesman Directory

Tradesman NEWS - Building Approvals Rocket

Building approvals soared in March by the most in almost eight years, offering hope of a recovery in construction that is needed to ease Australia's affordable housing shortage. Building approvals increased by 15.3 per cent in March, following a revised 2.7 per cent fall in February, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Economists estimated approvals would rise just 0.8 per cent in the month. From a year earlier, approvals were up a whopping almost 52 per cent. The monthly gain was the most since October 2002. Stronger construction data comes one day after the Reserve Bank lifted interest rates to 4.5 per cent from 4.25 per cent to fight inflation - its sixth increase in eight months. Financial markets are currently pricing only a one-in-six probability that the central bank will raise rates again when its board meets in June - but they still expect almost three more rate rises to 5.25 per cent by next May. The soaring total, though, masks a split between private sector house approvals and multi-units. Private sector house approvals, essential for a rebound in construction, increased only 0.5 per cent in the month, seasonally adjusted, while other dwellings - including multi-unit buildings, jumped 59.9 per cent. ''Building approvals are not as strong as the headline number would suggest,'' said RBC Capital Markets economist Su-Lin Ong. Ms Ong said the stand-out total number probably resulted from a handful of large multi-unit projects being approved, most likely in New South Wales. NSW<-b> In New South Wales, seasonally adjusted building approvals, jumped 43.5 per cent in the month of March alone, while in Victoria they grew 13.3 per cent. In South Australia they soared 24.4 per cent, while in Western Australia they rose 8.2 per cent. In Queensland, building approvals eased 1.9 per cent, the ABS said, while they dropped 5 per cent in Tasmania. Ms Ong said although the uptick in building approvals is a positive sign, it doesn't herald a full housing recovery. "As housing becomes more expensive in Australia and land value becomes more expensive there is a shift toward apartments and living in multi-story apartments," she said. "The idea that building approvals continue to rise is a good sign to help ease demand imbalances and support employment and growth more generally." The dollar rose above 91 US cent from 90.9 US cents before the data was released, but has since given up those gains. Housing Shortage<-B> Australia's home shortage now totals about 200,000, according to government figures, as a growing population and a recovering economy spur demand, while supply remains hindered by a tangle of planning and building delays. The imbalance between rising demand and weak supply has pushed capital city home prices have soared 20 per cent in the year to March, according to ABS data. The Henry Tax Review, released last weekend, suggested the federal government move to a national land tax to ease some of the burden on homebuilders and homebuyers. The review also suggested states abandon the costly stamp duty, blamed for creating an additional barrier to home ownership. The federal government, however, has not acted on the reforms suggested for the tax surrounding real estate and instead focused on imposing a super profits tax on the mining sector. Victoria Acts<-b> The Victorian state government, in its annual budget released yesterday, announced a restructured first home buyer stimulus grant aimed at spurring construction and easing affordability in the state's real estate market. Melbourne's home prices jumped 27.7 per cent in the year to March, on strong population growth and robust local and international demand for property, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported earlier this week. After June, state grants to new home buyers will increase to $20,000 from $18,000 in metro areas, while grants for purchasers of existing homes drop t
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