Townhouse consents surge

Wednesday 30 May 2018

A surge in townhouse consents hints at positive news for housing supply – despite a dip in new dwelling consents overall in April.

By Miriam Bell

New dwelling consents nationwide fell by 3.7% to 2,729 in April as compared to 2,926 in March which saw a 13% increase, according to Statistics NZ.

However, April’s consent total was by 29.6% on the total issued in April last year.

Further, 32,015 new dwellings were consented nationally in the year ending April 2018. This was a 5.4% year-on-year increase and is the highest level since 2004.

While the number of stand-alone houses consented fell by a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in April, consents for townhouses and apartments drove the year-on-year increase.

Stats NZ construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie says apartments and townhouses consents tend to be unevenly spread month to month, which causes peaks and troughs in consents totals.

But townhouse consents issued reached a record 5,508 in the year ending April 2018, easily surpassing the previous highs in March 2018 and June 1995.

The latest consents data also contained good news for Auckland, which is struggling with a severe supply shortage.

A rising trend continues in the Super City with 1163 new dwelling consents issued in April as compared to 1082 in March and just 726 in April last year.

For ASB economists, the data contained tentative signs that the post-election dip may be over, with the Auckland and Wellington consents suggesting stronger residential construction activity over 2018. 

In particular, consents for non-standalone dwellings, notably town houses, are leading the way, they said.

“Town house consents jumped 16.6% over April.  In annual terms, town house consents are up a whopping 64%.

“This hints at positive news for the narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply through enabling densification.”

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon says April’s consents data showed a better than expected performance after the 13% jump in March, with ongoing strength in apartment and townhouse consents.

Auckland, in particular, has regained some momentum, with consents rising sharply for a second month after a flat patch in late 2017 and early 2018, he says.

“We expect homebuilding activity to continue to rise at a gradual pace, notwithstanding the volatility in the monthly consents figures.

“But skilled labour shortages, rising building costs and difficulties accessing finance are significant barriers to growth, and are unlikely to be alleviated quickly.”

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