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A new concept for bringing builders, other tradespeople, designers and suppliers into contact with thegeneral public will be launched in Newcastle in late June or early July 2008.

The HIA Hunter Home Ideas Centre, a new complex in the industrial estate of Steel River at Mayfield West, is set to revolutionise the way the home building industry does its business in the surrounding region.

Well located alongside the Industrial Highway , just a few minutes’ drive from the central business district and within easy reach of Newcastle ’s satellite suburbs, the centre rejects traditional concepts of how building products and services should be displayed. HIA’s Home Ideas Centre Manager, Steve Jeffries, said its design resulted from extensive consultation with members and consumers.

Mr Jeffries said research indicates that kitchens and bathrooms are the current ‘hot’ items with consumers. “We will have eight kitchen displays in the centre, all by established cabinet-makers, so consumers will meet the people who will actually be doing the work,” he said. “The same goes for the bathroom exhibits.

This state of the art HIA Homes Ideas Centre showcases local construction industry services in addition to 15 display modules each two metres high by a metre wide, leased by local builders, architects and home designers.

The budget has introduced a range of measures to address housing affordability.

  • The Government is committing to spend $623 million over four years on a rental affordability scheme that will stimulate the construction of new rental properties by providing investors with $8000 a year for 10 years for each property that they rent out for 80 per cent of the market rent.
  • A fund for affordable housing worth $500 million over four years will also help to increase the supply of new housing by assisting with surrounding infrastructure and cutting obstacles to development approvals.
  • A national housing supply council will oversee the adequacy of the nation’s housing stock for the next 20 years, and the Government is looking for surplus Commonwealth land that could be used for new housing.

Housing Industry Association Managing Director Dr Ron Silberberg said the $21.7 billion surplus would help mitigate interest rate pressures and investment in infrastructure and skills would help reduce inflationary constraints and increase productive capacity.

“Measures aimed at boosting the supply of new housing along with desperately needed urban infrastructure will assist in pegging the gap between underlying demand and current production,” Dr Siberberg said in a statement.

Housing commitments in the budget include $500 million over five years for a housing affordability fund, $623 million over four years for a national rental scheme, $1.17 billion over five years for first home saver accounts and $10 million to assist with financial counselling for Australians facing mortgage and rental stress.

The government had increased investment in skills to address immediate and longer-term needs for tradespeople for the housing industry, according to HIA.

HIA also said it applauded measures aimed at making cities more efficient and productive through new investment in transport, community facilities and services is.

Simon Turner

The collapse of one of Sydney’s biggest project home builders, Beechwood Homes, could put further pressure on an already tight rental housing market, according to the Housing Industry Association.

Beechwood was placed in voluntary administration yesterday, which is expected to affect about 300 homeowners in Sydney, the Hunter, and the south coast.

Beechwood owes a total of $20m, made up of $10m in secured debts to a bank, and $10m in unsecured debts to its builders and contractors.

“Obviously you have a certain level of overheads if you are building 25 properties a week, which was the case until recently. But when you still have those overheads but are only building 12-15 homes a week, then that isn’t enough to keep the business going” said the administrator.

Rising rates have hit the building industry hard, with building approvals (the number of new homes being built) down by 5.7 per cent in March, as high rates stem consumer demand.

Compared to the previous year, building approvals fell 1.6% in February, despite an 8.7% rise in the number of private dwellings approved. The big driver was a very sharp 19.4% slump in private sector other dwellings, flats, units and townhouses.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the seasonally adjusted estimate for private sector houses approved rose 0.8% in February following a rise of 2.4% in January; and the seasonally adjusted estimate for private sector other dwellings approved fell 0.9%.

In numerical terms, approvals to build private houses rose 0.8% to 9,138 in February and approvals for apartments and renovations declined 0.9% to 3,611.

The Housing Industry Association said approvals were heading in the wrong direction:

“Total building approvals were flat in February (up by all of 0.1 per cent) to be at a level 1.6 per cent lower than a year earlier. Multi-unit approvals fell by 1.3 per cent to 3,814, their lowest level since May last year. Approvals for detached houses inched up by 0.8 per cent to a level of 9,332,” HIA Chief Economist, Harley Dale said.

“Building approvals were down over the three months to February 2008 for multi-units in particular, but also for detached houses” Mr Dale said building approvals updates were suggesting the gap between housing supply and demand was set to widen before stabilising:

“Detached house approvals have been trending (moderately) down again for three months now, while for the multi-unit segment there is a downward trend apparent over the last four months,” Mr Dale said.

“All leading indicators of new housing, including building approvals, are pointing to flat to weaker residential construction levels in the short term.” “Looking at the three months to February this year, building approvals have weakened in every state and territory in Australia except for Tasmania and the Northern Territory,” Mr Dale said in a statement.

Simon Turner

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