CONCERNS over new housing availability in Western Australia have grown after recent ABS figures revealed private sector housing approvals dropped 4 per cent last month, and have been on a downward trend for the last six months.
According to ABS’ trend estimate, housing approvals are at their lowest levels since July 2006.
“Building approvals for detached houses, semi-detached dwellings, and units of three storeys are still running at levels considerably lower to those evident in mid-2011,” Housing Industry Association chief economist, Harley Dale, said.
“There is no sign of a widespread recovery.
“HIA has long held the view that new housing activity will recover as we progress through 2012-13, but only very moderately unless governments lift their game and take action.”
Artificial constraints were holding the sector back, he said, with planning processes onerous and convoluted, and general taxation on housing too high.
The new WA Building Act that came into effect in April created uncertainty within the industry and among local governments; the level of approvals has only just recovered to pre-April figures.
Western Australia Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said building approvals were still within the normal range, considering total July approvals were 1,511 and the average over the past 14 months was 1,585.
“WALGA considers the trend estimate reductions to be in keeping with the trend of declining numbers of dwelling building approvals across WA since late 2010,” he said.
“[It is] not a direct result of the introduction of the Building Act, nor is it related to processing of applications by local governments.”
HIA WA executive director John Dastlik said close work between local government and the building industry had resulted in five amendments to the Act and a ministerial order in June.
There are two more amendment proposals scheduled to go before parliament in the near future.
“One of the proposed amendments is to create a ‘stop the clock’ mechanism; rather than force applicants to restart the 25-day council application process when council asks them to gather extra information, applicants can pause it and then continue from where it stopped,” Mr Dastlik said.
He said the second amendment sought to free-up builder access to blocks neighbouring worksites, which was necessary for them to build structures such as retaining walls.