Trade shortage to hit new home build time

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WA faces the worst trade shortage the home building industry has seen, with builders warning construction times could double in the next 12 months. An industry roundtable of many of the State’s biggest builders, run by the Master Builders Association, said the looming trade shortage was the key issue in the sector. MBA president Robert Shaw said the industry had shrunk in recent years amid soft demand, with many qualified trade works transferring to mines and employers failing to train new apprentices. He said a perfect storm was brewing, predicting a lot of pent up demand for new homes would soon be unleashed on the market, putting pressure on prices. Mr Shaw said a 14 per cent rise in block sales in September quarter showed buyers were ready to pounce. He estimated that the build time for homes would double to a year if demand returned near levels experienced three to five years ago. He said that at the current rate of recovery, this was likely to happen by this time next year to confirm that current activity would be sustained. “We are going to see the worst trade shortage ever in the building industry in WA” Mr Shaw said “What we’ve got at the moment is that a lot of people have left the industry but there hasn’t been the flow-through of apprentices”.

Property researcher Gavin Hegney predicted a 25 per cent jump in new homes built in the next year, which would restore WA to its traditional annual average of 16,300 new homes. He said it would be driven by the tight rental market and the influx of 1200 adults moving to the state each week. Mr Hegney agreed that a big trade shortage was likely, quoting research from Pit Crew Consulting that the resources sector would swallow 10,000 construction workers in the second half of the year. One of the state’s biggest builders, Dale Alcock, said his workforce shrunk 15 per cent in the downturn, He believed he would struggle to ramp up to meet demand and estimated that build times could blow out 30 to 40 per cent in as little as six months. David Reed, group construction manager for Plunkett Homes, said his company had put on supervisors to cope with a 50 per cent increase in new home starts in the past three months. Builder Jack Pleiter, from Genesis Homes, said the labour shortage had already hit the brick laying trade.

The West Australian, Wednesday 28th November 2012, Front cover Exclusive story by Kim Macdonald