Tradie shortage spells doom for bid to build 1.2m homes

Luke Costin |

Australia is set to fall short on a bid to build 1.2 million homes in five years.
Australia is set to fall short on a bid to build 1.2 million homes in five years.

Australia is forecast to fall well short of a landmark national goal to build 1.2 million homes in five years.

Building and construction industry forecasts released on Tuesday estimated about 1.09 million new homes would be started in five years from July.

About half of the 112,000 shortfall is expected to come from NSW and South Australia while only the ACT is predicted to meet its portion of the agreement.

It came after official data showed the production of high-density homes was in reverse, with commencements in 2022/23 falling to a 12-year low.

Master Builders Australia said falling inflation and, in turn, interest rates would lead to a more favourable investment market and a building turnaround.

But government efforts to increase supply were being countered by supply-side constraints such as workforce shortages, industrial-relations changes and poor planning systems.

“Workforce shortages continue to be the biggest challenge for the industry across all sectors,” Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said.

“At a federal level, the government’s priority should be growing the building and construction workforce.”

The nation’s largest residential builders’ association said maintaining government incentives for tradespeople employing and retaining apprentices was imperative.

“Labour is one of the top issues currently facing the building industry in Australia, and no stone should be left unturned to increase workforce capacity and improve skills shortages if we are to reach the goal of building 1.2 million homes,” Housing Industry Association managing director Jocelyn Martin said.

Tradies
Finding enough skilled people to teach young tradies is an issue for the construction sector. (Erik Anderson/AAP PHOTOS)

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said far more TAFE investment including expanding a menu of fee-free courses would help address shortages.

But the issue of convincing enough skilled tradies to take a pay cut to teach at TAFE also had to be solved, he said.

“I need industry to understand that if they need the skills for their industry … then we need to work out a better way to supplying the trainers and teachers needed,” he told ABC Radio.

On the Master Builders’ five-year forecasts, NSW is expected to build about 348,000 homes – 27,600 or 7.3 per cent short of its target.

Victoria is due to miss by 6.8 per cent, Queensland 2.0 per cent and Western Australia by 11.9 per cent.

ACT should exceed its 21,000 target by 16 per cent, but South Australia is predicted to fall short by 27,730 homes, or 33.3 per cent, Tasmania by 40 per cent and Northern Territory by 83.6 per cent.

About 500,000 of the 1.1 million forecast homes will be apartments and units.

AAP