ABS Building Approvals 

ABS Building Approvals released this week achieved new record high levels but activity in the nation’s capital is going in the opposite direction. 

Nationally, the latest ABS data confirms the continued strength of the property and construction industries, which looks set to continue in 2015 with a seasonally adjusted 19,282 dwellings approved in January taking total annualised approvals to a record-breaking 203,182.

The ACT is bucking the national trend but in all the wrong ways.

The ACT results show a drop of 25.9 per cent in building approvals in trend terms on equivalent 2014 levels. 

“79 dwellings were approved in January, with a total 3,726 homes approved for the full year ending January 2014. This sees the pipeline for ACT residential activity contract, in contrast to almost universal growth across the rest of the country.

However, there is potential to share in national infrastructure and planning reform in 2015 which will help increase residential development activity.

But the ACT is simply not benefiting from domestic and foreign investment at the moment and there is also a potential emerging issue around building approvals not converting to actual starts due to costs, delays and obstructive policy settings.

That’s why reform is so vital, to ensure that the high approval numbers are translating into construction of the new homes needed to meet demand and keep a lid on prices.

And it’s yet another reason why we can’t afford to be discouraging foreign investment, which is needed to turning approvals into actual builds.

Critically also, we need to ensure that we’re not locking out local industry as a result of the Land Development Agency moving to become the monopoly land supplier and greenfields developer in the Territory, reducing competition and housing choice.

Residential development is a powerhouse of the economy and we need to see changes in policy.

What we have here is a golden opportunity for national gains to be achieved in terms of jobs, strong communities and housing affordability when the residential development industry is at its best.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia