Builders step up to challenge

Builders step up to challenge

Tradesmen across the region are experiencing a decline in demand for their services as the rate of houses being built slows from peak pandemic levels.

Nationally, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of private dwellings commenced dropped from more than 42,000 in the June 2021 quarter to less than 23,000 in the September 2023 quarter.

While demand has slowed, the building industry continues to face pressure from the rising cost of living, material prices and high interest rates.

Locally, Steplen Homes supervisor Tim Smith said while the decline in houses does not significantly impact the family-owned business, he has noticed tradesmen seeking extra work in the area.

“I feel that talking to trades it certainly has slowed down and I think it will continue to,” he said.

“Bricklayers are sort of chasing me for a bit more work, as before I had to nag them to come do a job.

“Availability of trades seems to have tipped more in my favour now, we can get them a bit more regularly so that tells me it is slowing down a bit.”

Mr Smith said the square metre costs for building a home have risen as much as 50-60% compared to pre-COVID.

“You add to the cost of living and interest rates and things and it is getting very unaffordable,” he said.

“It seems to have settled down a lot more, but you still do get price increases on certain materials because it was a COVID thing and now it becomes the new normal, it never really comes back.

“Interest rates are having an impact, it is pretty obvious that it is and obviously interest rates stop affordability, so people just cannot borrow that much money anymore.

“We still get a few people that as interest rates go up we do see where people pull out altogether because we do sell house and land packages.”

Mr Smith said the $25,000 HomeBuilder Grant from the Federal Government put a lot of pressure on the building industry nationwide.

“With an influx of that much, the country and the town cannot keep up, it is not a finite resource. For that to have kept going is not sustainable,” he said.

“There are only so many bricklayers, carpenters, tilers and painters. You could not get them from anywhere else because they were busy, it does not matter where they were.

“Add to that supply issues because there were big issues getting anything into the country as well with COVID so that really hurt.”

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