28/01/2011 - 00:00

Shaw wary of new housing crisis

28/01/2011 - 00:00

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LONG-TIME Perth home builder Robert Shaw doesn’t want to see another crisis in home affordability as the state heads towards another widely tipped property upturn in the next few years.

Shaw wary of new housing crisis

LONG-TIME Perth home builder Robert Shaw doesn’t want to see another crisis in home affordability as the state heads towards another widely tipped property upturn in the next few years.

The new president of the Master Builders Association said builders could find themselves working at capacity within as little as six months, from levels of about 70 per cent, as activity picked up on the back of more mining investment in the state and increased migration from the eastern states.

“There is capacity at the moment but we could quickly find ourselves in six to 12 months’ time back where we were a couple of years ago,” Mr Shaw said, noting that this time prices would be coming off a much higher base after the last surge in property prices in 2004-06.

At capacity and beyond, the building sector faces severe skills shortages, compounded by rising land costs and what he labels a complicated regulatory process.

Mr Shaw, who established Armadale-based builder Daly & Shaw builders with Mick Daly in 1988, foresees activity to be tight this year as new home approvals continue to dip and rate rises remain on the horizon, but predicts a much stronger 2012.

“But it won’t be a good year if we don’t address some of the old issues that we have known about for a long time and had problems with in the past recently,” said Mr Shaw, a carpenter by trade with a 25-year association with the industry in WA.

Chief among these issues are: government regulation, particularly how it is administered by local governments; staff training; education; and housing affordability.

Mr Shaw, who said he placed strong emphasis on working cooperatively with all stakeholders – particularly the state government – wants to work more closely with various local councils to thrash out a “commonsense” approach to regulation and its interpretation and application.

“We have to keep regulations uncomplicated, building houses is not a perfect science,” he said. “You have different interpretations of codes by various local authorities and by different people at these authorities.”

Mr Shaw is hoping to counter this by working with one particular WA authority, involving other interested parties, to develop a platform or model “to unpick this thing”. The plan is to adapt this to other councils and use the model to make dealing with regulations simpler – reducing frustration, delays and costs.

“We have to stop fighting about interpretation. Eighty per cent of what we do is low-impact building, it is not as if we are building 100-storey buildings. It is not a high risk, high impact sort of thing,” Mr Shaw said. “We have made it very complicated and I would like to make it simpler.”

The industry is also facing a big sleeper issue on indemnity building insurance, according to Mr Shaw, as big player in the market QBE reviews policies after smaller players pulled out of the state. The review is due to go to the government, which has been lobbied by the MBA to consider some other options, including a fidelity fund.

It is another factor that weighed on costs to builders and consumers, again driving up home affordability, Mr Shaw said.

Mr Shaw, 49, is a motorbike enthusiast who also has a passion for netball. He became president of Netball WA last year. He has been with the MBA for about eight years and believes he has inherited an organisation in good shape, with a very good board structure to battle its challenges. He replaces Pindan managing director George Allingame, who was president for the past three years.

Mr Shaw is also a director of Western Ladders Pty Ltd, Heritage Pioneer Developments Pty Ltd and Western Timbers Pty Ltd. He is on the board of the Australian Trade College in Armadale, in line with his strong commitment to training in the sector.

The 113-year-old MBA has 1,500 members in both residential and commercial construction, reflecting big and small builders, developers and sub-contractors in the state. The building sector employs more than 100,000 people across the state.

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