Auckland residential building consents hit 15-year high

But a shortage of skilled trades people remains a key concern for economists. Photo: Getty Images
But a shortage of skilled trades people remains a key concern for economists. Photo: Getty Images
Auckland residential building consents  hit a 15-year high for May, while any gains in the South were relatively modest.

Nationally, new residential consents for May rose from 2794 a year ago to 3407, which was the highest monthly total since June 2004, Statistics New Zealand construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said.

"Auckland consented more new homes in May 2018 than in any other month in over 15 years," Ms McKenzie said in a statement.

Auckland’s consents for the month rose from 885 a year ago to 1530.

In Queenstown Lakes consents were up slightly from 90 to 98, Dunedin rose from 29 to 41, Central Otago was slightly down from 32 to 25 and Invercargill rose from 12 to 15.

Otago’s May values were up from $71 million a year ago to $77 million, while Southland was unchanged, repeating last year’s $7 million.

Across the country, total values rose from $2.79 billion last year to $3.4 billion.

ASB senior economist Jane Turner said the consents data suggested the "post-election dip" was now over, with issuance for the second quarter "surprisingly strong".

While the robust issuance numbers underpinned positive residential construction forecasts, Mrs Turner said a "key concern" remained in construction industry capacity constraints.

"That may hold back activity growth, despite strong demand," she said.

Last week the Government identified the country required 30,000 people for the construction sector.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod  said the May data was "much stronger" than he had expected.

"In fact, after a surge in apartment and other ‘multiple’ consents earlier in the year, we had expected to see a fall," he said in a statement.

"Importantly, annual consent issuance looks like it’s finally breaking higher after trending sideways over the past year," Mr Ranchhod said.

He said consent issuance in other regions was "essentially flat", noting a modest easing in issuance in Canterbury, where home building was expected to continue easing back over the next few years.

Mr Ranchhod said while recent increases in consent issuance were encouraging, he was conscious the building industry was encountering "some powerful headwinds".

Those included included shortages of skilled labour, rising costs, difficulties accessing finance and a slowing housing market.

"This combination of conditions means that actual home building levels may rise more gradually than the pickup in consents implies."

Ms McKenzie said almost half the new Auckland homes were stand-alone houses, with apartments and townhouses driving growth in recent months.

Auckland continues to lead the way in construction demand, with migrants and investors adding to competition for a shortage of housing stock. Stronger population growth in Auckland is expected to support construction activity at high levels, although construction costs in the city are higher than other regions.

Nationally, for the year to May, 32,628 new homes were consented, up 6.5% from May last year.

— Additional reporting BusinessDesk

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