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PHOTO: New home building. FILE

According to STUFF consents for new homes have flattened off, but at near record levels, and this should support strong housing construction for the next year, experts say.

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There were 50,653 new homes consented in the year ended August, up 8.9% on the same time last year, Stats NZ’s latest figures show.

But that figure was well down on May, when a record high of 51,015 consents were issued.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, consents have been volatile recently. They were down 1.6% in August, after a 5% increase in July and a 2.2% fall in June.

Stats NZ construction and property statistics manager Michael Heslop said consents remained at high levels in most regions, particularly Canterbury which hit a new annual record.

There were 8691 consents issued in Canterbury, in the year to August, an increase of 23% on the same time last year.

That meant consents in the region were now well above the post-earthquake rebuild peak of 7308 in the year ended December 2014, he said.

Northland and Southland also hit new annual records with 1549 and 485 respectively, while consents in Wellington were up 18% to 3875. Auckland had the highest number of consents at 21,463, up 7.7% on last year.

The number of new home consents being issued remains at high levels in most regions.
The number of new home consents being issued remains at high levels in most regions.

Heslop said the annual increase was driven by multi-unit homes, which included townhouses, apartments, retirement village units, and flats, and consent numbers could fluctuate from month to month due to large multi-unit projects.

But Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said while annual consent issuance remained elevated, on a monthly basis consents had been tracking sideways for about a year.

“There has been some month-to-month volatility associated with ‘lumpy’ categories like retirement villages, but consents have failed to rise meaningfully above 4200 a month for any sustained period.”

The construction sector was facing challenges, including falling house prices, rising interest rates and building costs, labour shortages, and buyer hesitancy, he said.