The building consent figures for new homes issued on Friday were a comparative bright spot. Full figures including comparisons with last year are at the foot, below what I hope is an interactive graph.
Statistics NZ (which now calls itself Stats NZ) said 30,736 new homes were consented in the August 2017 year, compared with previous peaks of 33,251 in the June 2004 year and 40,025 in the February 1974 year.
Stats NZ said: “Monthly building consents for new homes reached a 13-year-high in August 2017, driven by a spike in apartments & retirement village units in Auckland.”
First, it’s not a record.
Second, it’s not enough.
Third, pricing remains askew.
The 3166 consents for new homes were up by 404 on the previous month and by 332 on the previous August. The increases involved several “spikes”, none of which involved standalone housing.
Of Stats NZ’s 4 categories for new homes:
- Standalone house consents were up by 125 from July and 10 from last August to 2025
- Apartment consents were up by 17 from July and 152 from last August to 384
- Retirement village unit consents were up by 150 from July and 223 from last August to 295
- Suburban townhouse & flat consents were up by 112 from July but down by 53 from last August to 462.
The total floor area was up 14.6% to 550,000m² from 480,000m² in July & 7.2% from 513,000m² last August (Stats NZ said 7.1%), on a number of consents up 14.6% from the 2762 in July and up 11.7% on the 2834 last August. I used to calculate precise shifts in size & costs until Stats NZ explained that the staging of consents for apartment developments, but not the precise matching of costs, meant my calculations were wrong.
In theory, more homes for a smaller increase in floor area would mean the average size/dwelling has fallen, which makes sense given increases in more intensive living quarters, but it’s too hard to calculate from these figures.
Consents for houses in August were just behind those for May (2025 versus 2039) and well ahead of any other month in the last year.
The intensive sectors
The apartments picture looks strong in the last 2 months (367 in July, 384 in August), and the retirement village segment of the market had its biggest month since November 2015 (295, versus 321 in that standout 2015 month).
The intensive housing sector that’s been strongest is suburban townhouses & flats, running well above 300/month in every month except 2 (December & January last summer) since January 2016, and topping 500 twice. Last August was one of those 2 plus-500 months, so the comparative decline to 462 this August is not exactly a fall in the overall context.
Context for the 13-year high
Statistics NZ’s comparison with a monthly figure 13 years ago also needs to be put into context.
Over the last 2 years, total consents for new homes have fallen below 2000 only in January (so twice), and this is the second time they’ve exceeded 3000 (3005 last November, 3166 this August).
If you check back to my February 2005 story (link below), you’ll see consents for new homes that January fell below 2000/month for the first time since February 2003 – another 2-year run of plus-2000s.
The added ingredient: the population rises
Over the 5-year census period 2001-06, the New Zealand population rose by 273,000 to 4.18 million (up an average 54,600/year). It’s now at 4.821 million (up an average 63,600/year over 10 years, or 16.5%/year more than during 2001-06).
At an average 2.7 persons/household, the extra population since 2006 needed an average 23,600 more houses/year, compared to 20,200/year more in the previous 5 years, so a 15.3%/year increase in construction required.
Those averages come with bumps, declines & cycles, and for several months the net inflow of migrants alone has been above 70,000/year. The total population has risen over the last 3 years by 83,000, then 100,000, and this year by 120,000 – and that most recent increase equates to demand for 44,400 homes.
The regulatory & banking responses
Not surprisingly, that huge excess of need over construction encourages speculation. The New Zealand answer, via regulators, has been to create measures discouraging speculation. Construction has been slow to rise.
As I wrote 2 months ago: “Consents for new homes exceeded 30,000/year in the 12 months to October 2016, the first breach of that round figure in 11 years, and there the altimeter has stuck.”
The latest annual figure for consents is 30,736, up just 3.7% on the previous 12 months and enough to cover the population rise of 2 years ago (assuming nothing is demolished and every home newly consented is built).
More intensification, or more difficult?
A feature of the latest consent figures is the 24.8% rise in apartment consents for the last 12 months, from 2409 to 3007. At the bottom of the global financial crisis downturn, 673 apartments were consented in the 12 months to August 2012.
Figures up to February 2015 are not easily compared to those before, because Stats NZ went from 2 categories – apartments in one, including retirement village units, all other housing in the other, seemingly including suburban townhouses & flats in the second category. From March 2015, the statistics were broken into the present 4 categories – houses, apartments, retirement villages, townhouses & flats.
In the 12 months to January 2005, consents were issued for 6065 apartments, up 23.5% on the previous year, in the second 12 months of an immigration spike. That figure was probably for apartments including retirement village units. Since then, intensification has been advocated more & more strongly, promoted, and the tally for all 3 intensive categories for the last 12 months is 9497 units, up 12.5% from 8439 in the previous 12 months.
But there is a big questionmark over how many of those consents will turn into completed units, because of regulatory clampdowns on investors (including foreign investors) and impacts on first-homebuyers, including banking changes as both the Australian banks & banks in New Zealand (the big 4 owned from Australia) deal with tighter capital adequacy ratios.
One impact hard to spot from outside the finance sector is the size of apartment that a bank will lend on. A small upward shift in bankable unit size can make a one-bedroom unit impossible to buy, and can increase demand for 2-bedroom units, cutting the value of the smaller units (but not necessarily making them a buyable product) and increasing the value of the larger units.
Equally, there are questionmarks over how much immigration will be allowed, depending on who gets to become the NZ Government, and how much emigration there might be as Australia’s economy picks up, particularly in Melbourne construction & the mining sector.
Auckland consents up but slowing
Stats NZ started providing regional consent figures in 1991, and said on Friday 10,265 new homes were consented in Auckland in the August 2017 year, well short of the peak 12,937 in the June 2004 year.
The latest 12-month tally is up 4.2% from 9851 in the previous 12 months and up 19.2% from 8615 in the 12 months to August 2015. So, still rising but slowing, while demand continues to surge.
[The graph below is interactive on the Stats NZ website, and they’ve provided the code to make it interactive here, but it appears I have to use some special fingers as well as thumbs to make it work. Loads of comparative statistics lie below it.]
The national consent numbers for August and the year to August, compared to August last year, and the latest 12 months compared to the previous 12 months:
Total consents for new homes: 3166 (2834), up 11.7%; 30,736 (29,627), up 3.7%
Total values for new homes: $1.37 billion ($1.18 billion), up 16.2%; $13.12 billion ($12.06 billion), up 8.7%
Standalone homes: 2025 (2015), up 0.5%; 21,239 (21,188), up 0.2%
Apartments: 384 (232), up 65.5%; 3007 (2409), up 24.8%
Retirement village units: 295 (72), up 310%; 1830 (2084), down 12.2%
Suburban townhouses & flats: 462 (515), down 10.3%; 4660 (3946), up 18.1%
Standalone share of consents: 64% (71.1%), 69.1% (71.5%)
Suburban townhouses & flats share of consents: 14.6% (18.2%), 15.2% (13.3%)
Auckland residential consents fall 28.8% for month
Consents for new homes in the Auckland region fell 28.8% this July compared to last July, but rose by 4.5% for the year. Consents for the month rose in 6 wards and fell in 7.
Auckland residential consents for August, compared to August last year, and the latest 12 months compared to the previous 12 months:
Region: 1184 (970), 10,265 (9851)
Rodney: 92 (72), 1024 (953)
Albany: 249 (242), 3036 (2273)
North Shore: 19 (35), 500 (519)
Waitakere: 36 (68), 544 (593)
Waitemata & Gulf: 150 (49), 971 (1061)
Whau: 16 (73), 296 (303)
Albert-Eden-Roskill: 115 (117), 798 (632)
Orakei: 14 (21), 248 (357)
Maungakiekie-Tamaki: 164 (45), 601 (344)
Howick: 73 (42), 394 (585)
Manukau: 48 (20), 432 (441)
Manurewa-Papakura: 115 (112), 952 (1015)
Franklin: 93 (74), 969 (775)
All construction for August compared to August last year, and the latest 12 months compared to the previous 12 months:
Total: $2.127 billion ($1.745 billion), up 21.9%; $19.9 billion ($18.68 billion), up 6.6%
Non-residential: $706 million ($534 million), up 32.3%; $6.375 billion ($6.163 billion), up 3.4%%
28 February 2005: Auckland consents tumble in January, average construction cost surges
28 January 2005: Residential construction value up 92% in 4 years, average construction cost up 24%
30 July 2004: Residential growth continues at phenomenal rate in June
Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & release.