Construction industry stats show the Australian dream is still very much alive

Peter ChittendenDecember 16, 20140 min read

Every year the Housing Industry Association (HIA) publishes a detailed summary of the key facts about the Australian housing and construction industry.

With some figures going back over a decade, the summary always makes for interesting reading. I'm going to take a look at some of the key differences between 2013 and 2014.

The key headline figures show that last year there were 167,947 new homes built, up from 151,508 in 2012, the total value of housing construction increased from $68.3 billion to $69.9 billion, there was a big jump in the number of people moving into new homes from up from 389,376 to 434,788. There was also a notable increase in the number of people employed in the industry from 1,000,949 in 2013 to 1,037,412 in 2014.

As construction was seen as taking up some of the fall in activity associated with the mining boom, it is interesting to note that the value of construction as a percentage of GDP in fact fell from 4.6% to 4.5% in 2014. Even as the industry expands it has yet to reach the previous high of 5.3% recorded in 2010.

Looking at the make-up of the total number of dwellings built, the number of new homes built in 2013 increased from 90,268 in 2012 to 95,543 in 2013, the highest level in three years. However units continue to out pace detached dwellings. In 2012 there were 61,176 units built, in 2013 there were 72,404, however this is a huge increase over 2009 when only 38,992 units were built. It may well be that in 2014 unit numbers will have increased by 100% in just five years, which is a clear indication of where the market is heading.

Renovations are still very popular and this market has been running at consistent levels for some years, peaking in 2010/2011 at $31.8 billion. In 2013 renovations accounted for $27.9 billion, but outpacing all other areas of new construction. The renovation market is clearly an extensive and somewhat overlooked area of the housing market, possibly because activity is so fragmented and wide spread.

The HIA also tracks the average size of detached homes and attached dwellings. The size of the average family home has been relatively static at around 240 square metres for some years, attached dwellings are however getting smaller, and fell by 5.4% between 2012 and 2013 to 134 square metres having peaked at 143 square metres in 2004. However when looking at size, the HIA figures show that it is the size of the median lot size of land that has fallen the most, that figure stood at 592 square metres in 2004, and in 2013 there was a drop of 12.1% since 2008, down to 480 square metres, although in the last 10 years lot sizes have shrunk by more than 20%.

The composition of new dwelling approvals continues to change and in 1992 the total volume of detached dwellings represented 73% of all new dwellings, in 2013 that has fallen to 56%. By contrast, in 1992 apartments accounted for only 9% of the volume, in 2013 that has increased to 30% and the trend has been constant since 1997. The total dwelling stock in Australia now stands at some 9,008,000, an increase of 7.6% in the last 12 months.

Capital city vacancy rates have shown some movement between 2013 and 2104, the most notable shifts were in Darwin with rates increasing from 1.0% to 2.2%, and in Hobart there was a drop from 2.6% to 1.6%. Sydney and Adelaide remained stable and the vacancy rates increased in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

The HIA also notes in its update that according to RP Data, after inflation house prices across all capital cities increased by 7% over the past 12 months, and 13% in the past 5 years and 27% over the decade. I suggest that next year’s figures will continue to make interesting reading where price movements are concerned.

One final point is the burden of stamp duty across all markets, the duty on a median-priced dwelling in Victoria at 5% or $24,100 and in NSW for a similar home at 3.6% the duty would be $19,200. Clearly if there is to be a tax review and a change to GST, this level of duty begs for adjustment.

While the industry has seen growth in most sectors, the total number of building approvals at 178,897 is the highest figure since 2010 and a big increase on 2013 when approvals totalled 154,604. There were 34,506 (owner-occupiers) loans for new homes and 64,638 loans for the construction of new homes, which shows that Australians are still very much in love with the idea of building their own homes. The ‘dream’ is still very much alive as the increased activity over recent years shows.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.
Peter Chittenden
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