APRA-initiated investor retreat behind apartment downturn

By Tim Neary 12 April 2018 | 1 minute read

Investors have been the target of a number of regulatory interventions and the country is now seeing their impact on residential building activity, the HIA has said.

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The industry body added that recently released ABS data on building activity for the final quarter of 2017 shows that while detached house commencements increased by 0.7 per cent, starts for other dwelling types — predominantly apartments — declined by 11.2 per cent.

HIA senior economist Geordan Murray said that this scenario has impacted the whole market.

“The decline in multi-unit dwelling starts has dragged down the total number of new home starts during the final quarter of 2017,” Mr Murray said.

“The total number of dwelling starts fell by 5.0 per cent in the December 2017 quarter and was down by 8.3 per cent on the level recorded a year earlier.”

Mr Murray added that, in contrast to the decline in multi-unit starts, the resilience of the detached house market continued to “shine through”.

“The number of detached house starts during the December quarter of 2017 increased by 0.7 per cent over the quarter and was up by a similar amount compared with the level a year ago.

“Despite the soft starts result in the quarter, the pipeline of multi-unit activity remains quite large. There were still over 150,000 multi-unit dwellings under construction at the end of 2017, which is only slightly below the 155,000 level at the peak of the cycle. There are a further 33,800 dwellings in projects that have been approved and are yet to start work. This is a record high.”

But Mr Murray also said that the combination of falling commencements and the build-up of dwellings in projects awaiting commencement is “somewhat” concerning.

“It is likely to indicate a slowdown in pre-sales activity,” the senior economist said.

“New projects will not commence construction until they achieve a satisfactory level of pre-sales.

“Pre-sales to investors, both domestic and from overseas, have been important for many multi-unit developments. With additional taxes on foreign investors and regulators clamping down on investor lending, investors have retreated from the market.”

He said that if investors return to the market and the approved projects continue to progress, then residential building work could potentially make a stronger contribution to economic growth this year than economists are expecting.

So, Mr Murray warned that now is not the time to impose additional taxes or constraints on investors.

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Apartment

An apartment is a personal residence within a house or building occupied by several tenants.

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APRA-initiated investor retreat behind apartment downturn
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