Hope builds for better days with building approvals increasing in Cairns
THE construction industry is preparing for a much rosier year after the latest housing approval figures show a 25 per cent jump in the Far North.
Builders say the figures show their sector is recovering following a prolonged slump that led to the collapse of major developers such as the Hedley Group, CEC and Glencorp.
Master Builders regional chairman Ron Bannah said: "There's been pockets of really good work out there.
"It can only get better. I believe we started to see a turn around two to three months ago.
"Builders appear to be busy. Many are doing estimates and quotes.
"One builder told me on December 14 that he had seven contracts in the new year while another said he was not taking the three weeks off during Christmas and the New Year, that he was working through.''
In the 11 months to November last year there were 919 housing approvals, up 181 on the 738 in the previous period.
In Cairns the figures were up 38.5 per cent, a 118 increase from 306 to 424. Approvals in Cairns in November last year were up 64 per cent from 31 to 48 compared to November, 2011 and in the Far North by 6 per cent from 66 to 70.
Local builders such as Steve Slatyer say the last few years have been tough for the industry, but the increase in building approvals spells good tidings.
"It's been a tough few years. It's been steady, but on the quiet side of steady, just ticking over,'' he said.
"More building approvals are a good sign it means confidence is returning.''
Mr Bannah said he tried to organise a bus to take builders to Townshville to inspect a cyclone testing station at James Cook University and of the 30 he contacted none were available because they were "flat strap''.
"We haven't seen this for the past three or four years. I hope it's going to start to ramp up and all the indicators are that it's going to.
"It's never been cheaper to build because the interest rates are so low.''
HerronToddWhite Cairns research director Rick Carr said there were new houses being built but still not units.
He said the growing population and low rental vacancy rates were "encouraging people to build.''
Mr Carr said investors remained quiet and it was still cheaper to buy existing homes.
"Some people are opting to build. Twelve months ago I would have said not many. It's not back to robust conditions but the balance is gradually tipping.''
Austart Homes owner Phil Matthews said he remained optimistic.
"It's still pretty tough. Building will grow in the next 12 months but not double. We are a long way from what it used to be.
"There won't be any parties this year. It will be a tough year and only the switched-on builders will roll along.''
He said dropping the water tank requirements would save buyers $7000-$8000 which would make a difference.
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Looking up: Builders Steve and Brendon Slatyer at a house they are building.