Dwelling approvals hit eight year low: Matthew Hassan

Dwelling approvals hit eight year low: Matthew Hassan
Dwelling approvals hit eight year low: Matthew Hassan


Dwelling approvals showed a further weakening in June broadly in line with Westpac’s forecasts but weaker than the consensus view. Total dwelling approvals fell 4.9% to be down nearly 20% over the last two months, touching an eight year low.

The detail showed weakness in the month was more broadly based than May’s unit driven fall. Private sector unit approvals declined 5.3%mth to be down 23.4%qtr for Q2 as a whole (our estimates suggesting 'high rise' down 27.8%qtr and 'low rise' down a much milder 6.2%qtr).

Private sector detached house approvals posted a similar sized 5.7% decline in the June month but were more resilient for the quarter as a whole, down just 2.6%qtr. On a monthly basis, all segments are down materially on a year ago.

All states recorded declines, although they were more pronounced in NSW (–14.8%), WA (–11.7%) and Qld (–10.9%), and more muted in SA (–4.6%) and Vic (–0.2%). All states have seen double digit declines over May-June.

The value of renovation approvals posted a relatively strong 11.4% surge in June. This may be an early sign that relaxing restrictions in May-June are seeing some improvement, given renovations are likely to have shorter lags between application and approval. However, it should be noted that the gain is coming after some large falls with June approvals still below their March level and the value still down 9%qtr for Q2 as a whole. The segment is likely also benefitting from expenditure switching as COVID restrictions limit discretionary spending in other areas.

The value of non res. building approvals also rebounded, rising 17.8%mth, but was also coming from a weak starting point, approvals still 6.6% below their March level and down a whopping 18.1%qtr for Q2 as a whole.

For dwellings, the pull back continues to track broadly in line with Westpac's forecast. We expect approvals to come in at 145k for the full calendar year, roughly in line with the annualised pace in the June month and implying further weakness over the second half of the year. Note that approvals are likely to understate weakness in building as work on many existing projects will be delayed and some approved projects will be shelved or slower to commence.

Against this, the Federal government's HomeBuilder scheme, which provides $25k grants to eligible owner-occupiers buying a new home (or renovating an existing home), will give some support in months to come. With COVID-19 disruptions becoming more uneven geographically, state approval numbers are also likely to see a widening divergence in the second half of the year, Qld, WA and SA well placed to rebound and respond to stimulus measures, NSW seeing a slower reopening and Vic still contending with a large 'second wave' outbreak.

MATTHEW HASSAN is a Senior economist at Westpac

Housing Approvals Dwelling Approvals

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