20 April 2021

'Perfect storm' hitting hip pocket of Canberrans looking to renovate, build

| Dominic Giannini
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Roof repairs

A building boom across the country have left supplies hard to come by. Photo: File.

Builders in the ACT are struggling to get materials to complete jobs, with construction grinding to a halt in what is being described as a perfect storm within the industry.

Master Builders Australia said its survey of the industry found 70 per cent of builders are being hit by delays and cost increases for key trades and building products.

“The scale of the HomeBuilder success … have created huge pressure on the supply chain,” CEO of Master Builders ACT Michael Hopkins said.

The building boom, labour shortages in the industry and the disrupted supply of building materials coming from overseas due to the pandemic have led to further hits to the hip pockets of Australians.

Stock for the timber used for house frames has been dwindling around the country, with price lists from suppliers and for trades changing month-to-month due to demand.

And when these materials do arrive, they have been going missing from job sites, builders told Region Media.

But for residents, getting to this stage is contingent on finding a builder or a certifier.

Steve Monkhouse from Capital Certifiers said the company had closed its books to new customers for at least the next three months and is forced to knock back around half a dozen new inquiries every day.

“We put out an ad for a trainee certifier and a qualified certifier and received no responses,” Steve said.

“Last time we put an ad out two years ago, we hired someone within a month.”

Demand has also been impacted by the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder scheme, which provides up to $25,000 for residential construction.

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There were 1683 new build applications and 598 renovation applications submitted through HomeBuilder in the ACT as of 12 March 2021. There were more than 93,400 applications Australia-wide as of the same date.

The scheme provided a $25,000 grant for new builds and substantial renovations with price tags over $150,000 for contracts signed between 4 June and 31 December 2020. The grant was reduced to $15,000 for contracts signed between 1 January and 31 March 2021.

This correlated with the ACT recording a 30 per cent increase in single residential building approvals being lodged following the start of the scheme on 4 June 2020.

Not all residential building approvals are part of the HomeBuilder scheme and these sort of buildings typically don’t require a development application, an ACT spokesperson said.

Owner of Fresh Renovations and Constructions, Luke Van der Linden, said that while getting the ball rolling on new constructions was slightly slower, the pressures lay with external factors.

Where it would normally take two weeks to put a client in touch with building designers, drafters or architects, this process could now take up to two months, Luke said.

While none of his current clients are using the HomeBuilder scheme, the company had not been subject to large delays on development applications and approvals getting through.

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An ACT Government spokesperson said the average processing time had decreased by almost 30 working days after the government-funded six new assessing officers in 2019.

This is despite single residential dwelling building approvals increasing from 2,242 to 2,933 between 1 June 2020 to 31 March 2021 compared to the same period a year before.

Single residential dwelling buildings include new residential properties, dual occupancies, townhouses, additions, and demolitions.

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“And when these materials do arrive, they have been going missing from job sites, builders told Region Media”

When our renovation in an established suburb was hit by thieves (‘rogue builders’ was the consensus) a few years back we were told, “It happens all the time” – and reports of the number of thefts reported from building sites in some new suburbs at the time suggest it was indeed rife. If that’s still the case as the article suggests and given the huge cost and disruption involved maybe there should be dedicated police investigation squads along the lines of say, stock squads in some jurisdictions.

And, yes, the builder’s insurance paid for it… but no surprises who bears the ultimate cost.

But… What Would I Know?

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