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Housing boom lifts consumer confidence

More people are saying now is a good time to buy a house. Photo: Fiona Morris
A measure of consumer sentiment has rebounded as rising home prices made people feel better about their finances, while making them more confident about splashing out on big ticket items.
The survey of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank showed its index of consumer sentiment rose 1.9 per cent in November, following a 2.1 per cent dip in October and a jump of 4.7 per cent in September.
That left the index up 5.8 per cent on November last year.
Consumer sentiment at a three-year high.
Consumer sentiment at a three-year high.
"After a modest fall last month the index has returned to be back near its previous peaks in 2013 registered in March and September. These are the highest reads since the July-December period in 2010," said Westpac chief economist Bill Evans.
"It is encouraging that the index has returned to these levels."
Respondents were more optimistic about their own finances, with that index surging 13.3 per cent in November. That came even as people seemed to be more worried about the future, with the measure of finances over the next 12 months dropping 7.9 per cent.
The survey's measure of economic conditions over the next 12 months edged up 0.4 per cent, while that for conditions over the next five years rose 0.5 per cent.
In a promising sign for the Christmas shopping season, the index for whether it was a good time to buy a major household item rose 4.4 per cent to a strong 142.8.
That confidence may in part have reflected rising home prices and their boost to household wealth. The index of house price expectations rose by 3.1 per cent, to be 23 per cent up on the year.
There was also a rise in the "Time to Buy a Dwelling" index of 4.2 per cent including a very strong increase in New South Wales.

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Jobs hope rising for embattled building industry

NEW South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are expected to lead Australia's building recovery with Sydney showing the most promise, according to a new report.
According to the Building in Australia 2013 report from economics forecasting firm BIS Shrapnel, the upswing in building activity needed to offset the post-mining-boom lull will gather momentum over the next two years.
While Brisbane will lead the regions as an epicentre of growth, BIS associate director Kim Hawtrey said the pace will be "uncomfortably slow".
"We're in for a real nail-biter," Dr Hawtrey said.
"We see an upswing in building but it will be uneven and slower to get going than usual. The next 12 months will
be a critical test of how quickly the construction sector can take on more of the heavy lifting, and the Australian economy will remain balanced on a knife edge."
Building, especially home construction, is not responding to low interest rates as might be expected.
"Home building has been punching below its weight and normally low mortgage rates would be stimulating the sector toward clear recovery by now. But the antibiotics are taking longer to work this time around," said Dr Hawtrey.
"High household debt, concerns about the global economy, planning restrictions in some states and lack of land supply are among the factors that explain this new phenomenon."
Baby builders put off by affordability concerns
Demographic changes are also at work. Population is growing strongly but generational changes mean it is not necessarily translating into demand for new housing.
"Baby boomers, once the drivers of home construction, are now putting a brake on building as their numbers outweigh younger generations," said Hawtrey.
"For their part, young people are discouraged by affordability barriers and changes to first home buyer grants."
The Building in Australia report provides an independent medium term assessment of
the Australian building industry outlook.
It contains demographic trends and detailed forecasts on the residential (housing, other dwellings), non-residential (commercial, industrial, social and institutional) sectors, and the alterations and additions market, by state.
The report covers key drivers for housing demand, population trends, the outlook for building material costs and the non-residential building market.
BIS report shows little growth in 2013/2014
Surprisingly, the Building in Australia 2013 Report predicts that residential building will show little overall growth in 2013/14, with gains in some areas matching losses in others.
It will be a year of change in the mix - from Victoria to New South Wales, and from high rise to bungalows - beforegaining strong traction the following year, in 2014/15.
An improvement in residential markets will be seen in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, where population growth and stronger economies will see home building respond to rising stock deficiencies.
Each market has an estimated dwelling stock deficiency and in these states, recovery is expected to be driven by upgrader/downsizer demand and strong investor demand - including from overseas investors - with first home buyers taking longer to join in because of changes to grants.
Lower interest rates, together with solid economic growth and employment, will underpin improved confidence and promote new residential building - particularly in the key state of New South Wales.
However, Victoria and other southern states will see a contraction, offsetting the above.
This will be an inevitable correction following several record years of phenomenal home building in Victoria.
These markets are generally in oversupply, notably Victoria.
Consequently the immediate outlook for the number of dwelling commencements is mixed, and is forecast to change by -2 per cent in 2013/14.
Pent up demand to sustain better overall growth
Pent up demand and solid economic fundamentals will then sustain better overall national growth in home building during 2014/15 and 2015/16.
A stronger pick up is forecast for 2014/15 (+9 per cent) and 2015/16 (+4 per cent) as the market builds momentum.
This will be on the back of low interest rates, strong population growth and pent up demand in key states. The lower Australian dollar -- compared with recent years -- will help stimulate traditional industries.
The lower construction prior to 2013, as well as an expected improvement in confidence and income growth, will underpin the outlook.
Moderating the upturn will be residual consumer caution amid concerns over rising unemployment, affordability barriers and high household debt levels.
Natural cyclical factors will then lead to a correction in the cycle during 2016/17 (-5 per cent) and in 2017/18 (-8 per cent).
Nationally, the recovery will see private detached house starts grow by two per cent in 2013/14 and 12 per cent in 2014/15, the report predicts.

Source : Sunshine Coast Daily Newspaper (

Construction confidence grows

CONFIDENCE in the outlook for the Queensland building industry and the Queensland economy continued to grow during the March quarter, according to the March 2012 Survey of Industry Conditions report released by Master Builders on Tuesday.
Master Builders director of housing policy Paul Bidwell said the latest report highlights rising confidence for the fourth quarter in a row.
"We believe a range of factors have contributed to this improvement, with relatively stable interest rates and speculation of further rate cuts in 2012 at the top of the list," Mr Bidwell said.
"Positive media commentary regarding domestic and global economies and the landslide Queensland state election result have also played a role.
"While this continued growth in optimism is welcome, as it makes businesses more likely to spend, hire and invest, it is unfortunately not matched by an improvement in trading conditions during the March quarter.
"In the three months to March conditions in the residential and commercial sectors weakened. Turnover and profitability were both down, along with work in progress and average contract prices.
"The industry is optimistic that a gradual recovery is under way but, unfortunately, many businesses are not seeing any meaningful improvement in their individual circumstances, even in the regions where the resources sector is booming."
"The boom is yet to have any significant impact on many residential and commercial builders.
"Not surprisingly, the most critical constraint on business growth was the lacklustre level of demand, with the same list of usual suspects contributing to the softness in demand - weak consumer confidence, the two-speed domestic economy, the ongoing concerns about a possible second GFC, stagnant/falling house prices, the looming introduction of the carbon tax and housing affordability."
Report highlights include:
  • Businesses are increasingly confident that the industry is now entering the recovery phase. Consistent with that view, the Profitability and Turnover Indexes are forecast to increase over the next three months.
  • The majority of businesses expect their staffing and apprentice levels to stabilise in the short term.
  • Wages growth is only a problem in Central Queensland and Mackay, as a result of the resources boom.
  • Low affordability continued to dampen new housing demand, with the vast majority of respondents (86%) of the view that low affordability was having a negative impact on new housing demand.
  • The outlook for housing affordability is expected to improve slightly over the next 12 months thanks to the softening of house prices in some areas of the state.

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Proserpine and Bowen cyclone shelters

Construction to commence on Proserpine and Bowen cyclone shelters next week

Construction on the category five cyclone shelters in Proserpine and Bowen will begin next week, Minister for Tourism, Manufacturing and Small Business and Member for Whitsunday Jan Jarratt announced during a visit to the Proserpine cyclone shelter site today.
Ms Jarratt said locals could expect heavy machinery on site mid next week in both Proserpine and Bowen, with work to begin shortly after.
Premier Anna Bligh said these two shelters were among 10 being constructed in North Queensland as part of the $60 million cyclone shelter program jointly established by the Bligh Government and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
“The start of construction on these projects represents another huge step forward for our $60 million cyclone shelter program,” the Premier said.
“This government is getting on with the job of building these cyclone shelters for the people of North Queensland – the local community can expect to see these shelters complete by the end of November, weather permitting.”
Ms Jarratt said Paynter Dixon Queensland Pty Ltd won the tender to construct both the $5.8 million Proserpine shelter and the $5.6 million shelter at Bowen State High School.
“These cyclone shelters are extremely important to the people of Proserpine and Bowen,” Ms Jarratt said.
“Not only will these facilities provide safe and secure shelters for the local community in the event of a category five cyclone, but they will also act as a multi-purpose sports facility for year-round use by the locals.
“In addition, it’s an extremely welcome boost for the local construction industry.
“The Proserpine cyclone shelter will support approximately 39 jobs over the life of the project, while around 38 jobs will be created in Bowen.
“By using a select tender process we deliberately targeted local contractors, in turn maximising the opportunities for flow-on benefits to local suppliers, sub-contractors and the local community.
“Having offices in both Mackay and Townsville, Paynter Dixon is very familiar with the local sub-contractors and suppliers in Proserpine and Bowen.
“Through this project they have been able to stimulate the local construction industry and make of use of local resources.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be here today to signal the start of construction on these two cyclone shelters, which will have such wide-reaching benefits,” she said.
Minister for Government Services, Building Industry and ICT Simon Finn said the new buildings would be big enough to include multipurpose halls for sports such as netball and basketball.
“Each facility will be greater than 1,500m2 in size, and will include a multipurpose hall for sports such as netball and basketball,” he said.
“A sports lab classroom is also included as part of the structure for year-round use by the school – this classroom can also be used for refuge during a disaster, similar to the sports hall area,” he said.
“There will also be office space built into the facilities, with the key purpose of providing communication facilities in the case of a cyclone – however throughout the year, it will provide office accommodation and staff amenities for teaching personnel.
“The buildings will have 10 toilets and five showers, and two water tanks in the roof which are gravity fed to the toilets and showers during a cyclone.
“They will also contain a kitchen, a generator room and a storage room for chairs that would be used during a disaster.
“In the case of a cyclone, the town power supply may cease, in which case a generator will be activated – if the generator fails, emergency batteries stored in the cyclone shelter will commence operation,” Mr Finn said.
Ms Jarratt said the shelters would ultimately make the Proserpine and Bowen communities more resilient.
“These cyclone shelters will be constructed in accordance with the Design Guidelines for Queensland Public Cyclone Shelters and will be capable or withstanding winds of more than 300 kilometres per hour, as experienced in a category five cyclone,” she said.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) is managing the delivery of the Proserpine and Bowen cyclone shelters, as well as the shelters in Ingham, Townsville, Port Douglas, Tully, Weipa and Yeppoon.
The cyclone shelter in Mackay is being managed by the Department of Education and Training as part of the delivery of a new Eimeo State High School. The Edmonton cyclone shelter is being designed and delivered independently by the Cairns Regional Council through a grant funding arrangement with the State Government.
“In total, the cyclone shelter projects are expected to support 400 jobs over the life of the program,” Ms Jarratt said.

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